Summit engages teens in their local government

By Pat Sunderland


A Youth Summit designed to build interest in local government was hosted by the Delta Youth Council last week. Students from Delta and Cedaredge attended the day-long session, which opened at Bill Heddles Recreation Center with comments from city manager David Torgler and concluded with tours of the courthouse, sheriff's office, Delta City Hall and the city's municipal light and power plant.

Throughout the summit, students learned how local government works, the goal being to engage the younger generation and assure them their opinions do matter.

"This summit will plant the seed," said Mayor Ed Sisson.

The city is about to embark on a master planning process for parks, trails and open spaces. The youth attending the summit were the first to have the opportunity to provide input. City engineer Ellen Michelson, Delta Youth Council coordinator, and Tony Bohling, parks and recreation, put together a survey to gauge student interest in and use of outdoor activities and facilities. After completing the survey, students were asked to identify the one thing they would want to bring to Delta immediately. Responses included an outdoor aquatic recreation area to help beat the summer heat, and concrete trails to accommodate road bikes and connect Confluence Park to other parks in the city. An events center like a "mini Red Rocks" could accommodate athletic fields, art shows and live performances. Students who already enjoy boating and fishing would like the Gunnison River corridor to be enhanced.

"They've come up with some great ideas," Mayor Sisson said.

Hannah Owens, a Youth Council founder and a senior at Delta High School, said the summit was very successful. "Local government can seem boring, but we made it a lot of fun," she said. "The summit exceeded the expectations of the students who attended."

The Delta Youth Council is modeled after a similar organization in Montrose. Initial focus has been on appointing members, establishing bylaws and taking on one major initiative -- the Youth Summit.

"We pulled that off and now we're looking forward to doing other community projects," Owens said. The Youth Council is planning to take DHS grads to Lincoln Elementary for the traditional senior walk, so graduation becomes a more tangible goal for the young students.

The Delta Youth Council consists of 11 Delta High School students appointed by the Delta City Council. They meet as a group twice a month with their city and school liaisons, and attend city council work sessions and meetings to increase their connection to city government.