Nashville — Youth from public and private schools in the Nashville area are becoming leaders through engaging with their local community. Under the Mayor’s Office, The Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC) in Nashville, Tennessee consists of high school sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in tackling issues in the city.
Ayna Sibtain, 17, a senior at MLK High School is approaching her third year on the MYC. She started off doing student council at her school, and she became interested in the MYC because of the ability to work with the local government. At MYC, Sibtain is involved in the Public Health Committee and participated in the Mayor’s Youth Summit. Sibtain has also led wellness drives, such as food drives, for those who might be food insecure. Sibtain’s older twin sisters had been part of the MYC, so she was already familiar with MYC prior to applying.
Sixteen-year-old Carmelina Peterson, a junior at MLK High School, is new to MYC. Peterson has been on the Council for only a few weeks, but she attended orientation and graduation for last year’s seniors. She found out about MYC through a friend who spoke highly of the Council. She had always wanted to be part of the MYC, but it was last year when she first applied.
“It’s a chance to learn about activism and how to get involved in your own community,” Peterson said.
Peterson said the space for meetings is open early, allowing students to do their homework and catch up with friends. When the meeting starts, they usually do icebreakers. Then they hear from a speaker. Following the speaker, the students break out into committee work, and then the students exit at 6:30 pm.
Peterson shared that youth should try to get involved in MYC. She said, “It seems intimidating but it’s not that formal.”
Khalid Hassan, 16, a junior at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, is also new to the MYC. His high school counselor sent an email in the daily announcements about the Council. When he applied, he was nervous due to the Council’s selectivity.
Hassan has been working on developing an Economic Development Committee with another member, and one of the Committee’s objectives is to develop a job fair for people who might be unemployed.
“I like that I can actually make a change. I like the people there, the community that forms, the similar strive in that they want to see change,” Hassan shared. He said that the importance of different perspectives has been vital.
Adrianne Gott, 17, a senior at Davidson Academy, is now in her fourth year in MYC. She learned about MYC through the We City Week Summer Camp in 2018, where she was selected to be a delegate of the Nashville We City Program which is targeted to young adults in preparation for the Mayor’s Youth Council. She participated in this Program during her eighth grade year, and then she interviewed for MYC during the summer before ninth grade.
She has served on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for four years and helped coordinate the Mayor’s Youth Summit which occurs every fall and spring. Within the Summit, she teaches, presents, and promotes why DEI is important in Nashville. In addition, she shares how DEI can be enhanced within the Metro Nashville Public Schools system.
She often meets with students from other schools both in Nashville and outside of Nashville about local issues.
She has had the opportunity to attend numerous City Council meetings and form relationships with new schools that act as community partners.
When asked about what she would tell other young people about MYC, she said, “In every room you go into, make it a goal to speak with one person you do not know.” She also shared, “Networking is the most beneficial tool that you will ever have, for sure.”
“Don’t underestimate the extent people in positions of power are willing to work with you,” Gott said. She shared that people in positions of power want to hear youth voices.
Ilana Drake is a journalist from New York City and attends school in Nashville. Follow her on X: @IlanaDrake_
Edited by Nykeya Woods