Mayor's Youth Council engages local students in government, politics

The Mayor’s Office of Tuscaloosa is once again preparing to host the Mayor’s Youth Council, which provides high school students with a chance to work side-by-side with local government officials.

Deidre Stalnaker, communications director for the city of Tuscaloosa, said the program is aimed at getting promising high school students involved, as well as giving Mayor Walt Maddox an opportunity to hear from the city’s youth.

“The Mayor’s Youth Council gives high school juniors and seniors a chance to play a more active role in their city government,” Stalnaker said. “At the same time, the mayor gets input on challenges and successes of today’s area youth.”

Heather McCollum, executive assistant to Mayor Maddox, said because the program will use city resources, the overhead on sponsorship is financially efficient.

“The city council funds some smaller aspects, but most of the resources used are city resources, so there is not a lot of out-of-pocket cost,” McCollum said.

McCollum said the MYC is open to both high school juniors and seniors. She also said the program puts an emphasis on certain aspects of local government that alternates for students based on their class.

“We have a two-year program, so the curriculum changes from year to year,” McCollum said. “One year when they are in it, their projects focus on presenting the city council with a solution to a problem that faces them and their peers. The second year, they do volunteer work with one of our city-funded social service agencies and report the benefits of that agency to the city council.”

McCollum also said the program is limited in the number of applicants that will be accepted, so the application process is used to properly gauge a student’s availability and commitment in order to choose the most eligible student.

“We have anywhere from 15-20 students in the program each year,” McCollum said. “When they apply, we just ask that they realize that this is a time commitment, and most of the students who apply are usually the top of their class and are involved with many other clubs and organizations. So when we talk to them, we stress how important the participation is, and once we are convinced they can do that, we accept the students.”

After the student is accepted into the program, they will be required to convene monthly at various city institutions, such as Tuscaloosa City Hall, the Tuscaloosa Police Department or the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation.

Students must reside within the city of Tuscaloosa and have a minimum of a 2.3 GPA. Applicants must be rising juniors or seniors in high school.

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