Members of the Chapel Hill Youth Council told the Chapel Hill Town Council they want to serve as voting members on some of the town’s advisory boards.
Councilwoman Maria Palmer said the teenagers’ role could be valuable. Teens would be non-voting members within the advisory boards, but she said the members will determine whether the teens will be able to vote in some of the advisory boards in a town council meeting next week.
“We know definitely in the two boards, the (Community Design Commission) and the Planning Board, that they could not be voting members due to their judicial functions,” she said.
Teens would only be able to share their ideas with the advisory boards, but Palmer said they should still participate.
“I am a liaison on three councils and I don’t have a vote, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make an impact,” she said.
Liz Carter , coordinator for the Youth Council, said there is a disconnect between the town council and teens.
“(Teens) are bored because there is nothing for them to do,” she said. “We force things on them, what we want. If we have them here we could know specifically what they want to do.”
As the youngest member of the Town Council, Councilman Lee Storrow said he believes listening to teens’ perspectives is a great idea.
“They play an important role in the community, and they need to make sure they have spaces to play and interact that they are safe,” Storrow said.
Storrow said the Town Council is undergoing work to make sure they better serve the needs of younger kids.
“Their voice is important and we hope they participate in civic dialogue within the community,” he said.
The town is still accepting applications for its Youth Council, and students can apply through the end of August.
Akera Street, a junior at Northwood High School, said she is excited to participate in the Youth Council and is looking forward to planning events for kids in the town.
“Young people can give great ideas, and we want to be able to plan more events for the community and for the children so they can have more fun,” she said.
Street said she believes they should have a vote within the advisory boards.
“I feel like we should be able to vote,” she said. “If it is up to one person, to make it fair, we should all vote on some of these issues. Not everyone in Youth Council is 18.”
Carter said the Youth Council gives kids an opportunity to serve a leadership role, and she is hoping more teens will join.
“Who knows more about teens than teens, themselves? The government should not be run top-down,” she said.