Chicago — The youth of Chicago are some of the most underheard and underrepresented groups in the city. Mayor Brandon Johnson is aware of this and decided to give the youth an opportunity to have their voices and wishes heard.
“People look over the youth and just say, ‘Oh, they’re just kids. They don’t know anything,’” said Jayla Anderson Westbrook, a sophomore at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep. “This event allows our voices to be heard when it comes to government policies.”
Held at the Harold Washington Library Winter Garden, the Youth Budget Engagement Roundtable was centered around Chicago’s young people, ages 13-24, and their suggestions for improvements using the city’s budget. There were multiple tables with various topics including but not limited to community safety, mental health, affordable housing/homelessness and environmental justice and infrastructure.
“Throughout the next four years, I will make sure that you are heard, understood, valued, seen and, most importantly, you get to lead in this moment,” Johnson told the attendees. “Some people will try to write you off and say you don’t know enough because you’re not grown. On the contrary, I think you may know more. Your unique voices and perspectives and lived experiences have the power to open our eyes to something we didn’t see before.”
Some of the youth present at the event were invited as volunteers to help lead and guide the flow of the conversations being had about the various topics. Cierra Tillman, a recent graduate from Michelle Clark High School, was one of them.
“I feel like it’ll benefit the city’s youth because a lot of times when these conversations are being had about youth, youth are never included,” said Tillman. “A lot of times, money is wasted because they’re not listening to the demographic that they’re trying to appeal to.”
This guest post is in partnership with True Star Media.