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Delta City Council takes steps to engage younger citizens

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As a senior at Delta High School, Hannah Owens is looking to make an impact on her school and the community that's been home most of her life. So when she heard about the Montrose Youth Council, she decided the concept was so admirable, a youth council should be established in Delta.

The Montrose Youth Council, she said, spearheaded an anti-drug initiative and has suggested changes in ordinances regarding skateboarding on city sidewalks.

"We saw that Montrose had reaped a lot of benefits, so I thought I would initiate a Delta Youth Council," Owens said.

While exploring the idea with her mom, she came to realize that older citizens are more likely to vote and to be aware of municipal issues. She felt a youth council would generate interest in community activities among students as well as their parents.

She spoke to the mayor, built up interest among DHS students and began working with the city's administrative intern, Matt Hischinger, to refine the concept.

After meeting with Delta High School students and Montrose Youth Council coordinator Tina Woodrum, Hirschinger wrote a detailed proposal. He and four DHS students -- Owens, Kaylie Rankin, Logan Goodrich and Jaspe Arias -- attended a recent city council work session to discuss the concept.

Hirschinger's recommendaton includes a budget of $500 to cover the cost of a student initiative, to be determined. The bigger cost, he said, is staff time. Council involvement is also a possibility; in Montrose, a city council liaison attends all youth council meetings. Delta councilmember Christopher Ryan said he is willing to commit four hours a month to the youth council.

The Montrose Youth Council functions independently of the school, but both Owens and Hirschinger believe a DHS faculty member would be a valuable asset, to help coordinate and communicate youth council activities. Shawna Magtutu, DHS counselor, has agreed to fill that role. She is also the student council advisor, which could facilitate collaboration on multiple levels.

Since Owens is a senior, sustainability was one factor

addressed during the council work session. In addition, Hirschinger's contract with the city expires at the end of 2016. Ellen Michelson, city engineer, has volunteered to take the lead role after he leaves, and Owens has compiled a list of 11 interested DHS students that includes sophomores and juniors.

"I trust they'll keep it going," Owens said. "Hopefully I will come back and see they made a lot of progress."

A three-year plan has been developed, beginning with formal recognition of the Delta Youth Council and completion of at least one project that will benefit the community. "In the second and third year, we want to gain more projects and do more good for the community," Owens said.

A resolution to formalize the youth council was on the agenda for the city council's Oct. 4 meeting.

The first step is educating the DHS students about local government, and how it functions differently than state and federal government. Owens said she's already learned how a lot about how different departments carry out city functions.

Once the youth council has been formally approved, the teens are expected to meet twice a month. In addition, they'll be encouraged to attend at least one city council meeting a month.

The Montrose Youth Council is making an impact and being heard by city leaders, and Owens hopes she can likewise engage younger citizens of Delta in local government and local issues.

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