Los Angeles — The Olivia E. Mitchell Los Angeles City Youth Council graduated its inaugural cohort in May, offering young Angelenos unique opportunities to learn about city government and make impacts in their respective districts.
The Youth Council is made up of 30 representatives — two coming from each of the city’s 15 districts. It is overseen by the Los Angeles Youth Development Department and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.
Tamar Fowler is the Community Engagement Specialist for the city’s Youth Development Department and one of many leaders who work directly with the council. She noted that the Youth Council was established not long after the department was created.
“We wanted to have a Youth Council that was housed in our department, that was comprised of youth all over the city of Los Angeles,” Fowler said.
Members’ responsibilities include attending bimonthly meetings and various virtual or in-person events, as well as meeting with city leaders and identifying solutions to improve youth policies and programs. They are also introduced to city departments once a month, including trips to the Griffith Observatory, Port of Los Angeles and the Watts Towers. Toward the end of their term, members draft a policy memo advocating for desired improvements in their respective districts.
“They really get to receive hands-on preparation for a possible career in public service,” Fowler said.
Although the Youth Council had a set curriculum that involved trips to various city sites, some meetings were unplanned. After the Robb Elementary School Shooting in Uvalde, TX, then-Mayor Eric Garcetti requested to meet with the Youth Council to understand their perspective and increase awareness around gun violence.
Fowler provided several examples of how “life-changing” the experience can be. One member is now training to become a police officer, while another gained a full-time position under a city council member
“We not only want to help and inspire youth, but we also want to lead them on a track where they can have a career [in] public service,” Fowler said.
On an episode of their weekly program, “Protest + Promise”, the Youth Council’s members discussed their journeys to joining the program and the lessons they learned along the way.
“One of the biggest things is learning just how respected [the] youth voice was and how actions by youth were actually taken seriously,” Ava Boris, one of the council’s District 2 representatives, said. “Creating [something] that [is] more widespread within the city is something I would really love to see.”
Fowler discussed what it meant to be mentoring the next generation of public officials, citing that Garcetti and city councilwoman Monica Rodriguez had served on youth councils.
“Not only are we trying to build relationships with these youth, so they feel comfortable talking to us, but we also are very cognisant of the fact we could be talking to our mayor in 30 years,” Fowler said.
The inaugural cohort of the LA City Youth Council exhibited many admirable traits and qualities, but some that stood out were the diversity that reflected the city of Los Angeles, the group’s work ethic, and their “heart for humanity.”
“They’re legacy-builders,” Fowler said. “They see what’s wrong with the city right now, and they actively work to make the city a better place.”
With the recent conclusion of the Youth Council’s first year, Fowler had plenty of praise for members of the inaugural cohort.
“These kids are so fantastic,” she said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in the city when it comes to youth policy and programming. These youth had a lot on their plates, and they were still able to maintain other aspects of their personal life.”
Fowler is also proud of the people they’re becoming.
“They really have a heart for the people,” she said. “These youth always were community-serving, and always wanted to build up the community.”
Fowler advised future youth council members and young people in LA to “keep going” and speak up on problems they witness.
“Your voice matters, and we care about you,” she said. “We want to learn from you because we know you’re valuable and important. That’s why it was so important for us to create this council. We wanted to be the department where a youth voice was heard. Every youth is always going to have a seat at our table.”
“There’s always going to be a youth department in the city of Los Angeles that is looking for exactly what you exemplify and the skills you have,” Fowler concluded.
Jordan Pagkalinawan (he/him) is from Los Angeles and covers news, health and technology. He currently studies journalism at Emerson College in Boston. Follow him on X: @JPagkalina1 and Instagram: @jpagka22.
Edited by Nykeya Woods