Want to know what’s important to today’s civic-minded youth, as well as who they would vote for in the upcoming presidential election? The National League of Cities (NLC) hosted more than 200 youth delegates from around the country at its annual Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 5-9, 2016. Here’s what they had to say.
(photos: Laura E. Furr)
This is a guest post by Sana Johnson.
Young people from more than 35 diverse cities across the country convened on Monday, March 7th to participate in the National Youth Convention at NLC’s 2016 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. Modeled after the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, youth delegates took on the challenges of developing a National Youth Platform and choosing their candidates for the presidential bid.
The convention served as a continuation of the mock Iowa Caucus conducted by NLC with youth delegates at the Congress of Cities conference in Nashville this past November. The youth delegates were an impressive group of high school students engaged in civic leadership, most often as members of their cities’ youth councils. They developed two-sentence policy statements based on the NLC-wide policy priorities, including the opioid crisis and criminal justice reform, as well as youth-specific issues such as sex education in public schools, access to higher education, and affordable healthcare for teens.
The group ratified the following five policies to include in their final National Youth Platform:
- Environmental sustainability: “We believe that renewable energy is an efficient way to preserve our resources for future generations. To accomplish this, we will reform policies and provide incentives for more sustainability.”
- Sex education in public high schools: “We believe sex education in public schools must be more inclusive and go beyond abstinence-only education. This can be achieved by granting funds to school districts that adopt an inclusive curriculum which includes body positivity, LGBTQ+ relations, and healthy relationships.”
- Small businesses: “Youth will advocate for workshops to educate their community on small businesses and work to connect young people to those businesses using modern marketing technology. This can be accomplished through cooperation between local government and small community businesses.”
- Preventive measures for stopping the incarceration cycle: “Youth will push their local governments to implement rehabilitation programs for any and every crime committed by a minor. This would mean substituting more positive skill-building programs for juvenile detention.”
- Immigration: “We are a nation of immigrants made great by diversity. We can fix the broken path of immigration in this country with a new outlook of compassion and understanding combined with a youth-led lobbying effort to reform the citizenship process and visa application process while also keeping beneficial programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).”
This final platform not only represents the interests of youth across the country but also provides a framework from which youth councils in America can work on these issues and improve their communities.
Upon establishing this platform, delegates of the National Youth Convention voted on the presidential candidates. After each state representative announced their state’s vote to the group, Governor John Kasich and Senator Bernie Sanders emerged as the victors.
The National Youth Convention was a highlight for many of the youth delegates, as they got to demonstrate their passion for public service, gain firsthand experience in the political process, and think creatively about the issues that matter to them most. NLC has asked each youth delegate team to choose one policy from the platform to work on in their city. We are excited to hear about the positive change these young people will bring to their communities.