Junior Commissioner: a platform for youth voice

What is youth voice? Although “youth voice” denotes the ideas, opinions, attitudes, knowledge and actions of the younger generation, I believe that youth voice is not completely defined until said voice is heard by others and enacts a positive impact on the community. The most difficult aspect of achieving youth voice is the latter—ensuring that the voices are heard by those in power.

Since day one of my freshman year, I was heavily involved in the Mt. Lebanon High School community. I was elected and served as Class President every year of high school, I co-founded the Upcycling Club with two friends and I served as Junior President of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America.) Even with all of my experience, I always thought that I was too young to have a say in larger community matters. That was until I came across the Junior Commissioner application.

Kate and friends at Mt. Lebanon High School

As I read the description, I instantly realized that Junior Commissioner would be the perfect platform to have a youth voice in municipal matters. Although change can be initiated by anyone, I knew that serving as a Junior Commissioner would widen the possibilities of positive change I could help to create in the community. Not only this, but the role aligned perfectly with my previous experiences and current interests. Serving as Class President taught me invaluable lessons about leadership and the basic frameworks of a successful small-scale government. Naturally, I was interested in learning more about the operations of my local government, as it runs the community I have lived in my entire life. Since I plan to pursue a career in law, the Junior Commissioner role would allow me to see if I might be interested in practicing law in the public service area, potentially representing and advising federal, state and local government agencies and officials. I knew I had to apply.

Presenting an update to the Commission in April

Through my role as Junior Commissioner, I sought to bridge the gap between students and local elected officials, empowering young people to actively participate in shaping their own futures. I served as a liaison between Mt. Lebanon High School’s student body and the Commission. I actively voiced students’ needs, relay pertinent current events and highlight opportunities for engagement by presenting twice a month at Commission Meetings. My role not only involves reporting to the Commission on school matters, but also relaying information on local policy decisions back to the student body, thus fostering transparency and civic awareness in the high school.

I value continuous growth and learning, especially through my youth-adult partnership with the Commissioners. I have learned from their wisdom, integrated their effective leadership strategies into my own practices and honed my ability to communicate effectively and advocate for others.

Gaining an understanding of the Commission helped me see how community members, like my family, are impacted by local government decision-making.

As a Junior Commissioner, I sat in on Commission Discussion Sessions, where I learned about our community and its future. The topics I learned about ranged from the process of creating and implementing new advisory boards, to possible recreation center renovations, to the role our community’s police services in mental health support, and the likelihood of new pickleball courts. These sessions have provided me with a deeper understanding of the various initiatives and improvements being considered for our community and I am eager to see these plans come to fruition.

When youth are fully included as partners in decisions, leaders can better represent their communities, as both traditional and “young” ideas are distinguishable and heard. By embracing and nurturing youth-adult collaborations, I hope to cultivate a more inclusive and resilient community where the voices of all generations are valued and heard. I am honored to have had the privilege of learning from and collaborating with the Commissioners and I will always remember my time as a Junior Commissioner. Through dedicated service, ongoing self-improvement and emphasis on the value of youth-adult partnerships, I endeavor to make a meaningful impact as a leader, fostering positive change and unity within Mt. Lebanon High School and my municipality.

A bittersweet final day in Commission Chambers

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