Over the past semester the Morven Park Center for Civic Impact, with the Leesburg Town Council and J.L. Simpson Middle School, piloted a new program called “Teen Advisors” that brought the voices of 60 eighth grade students to their local government. These students were challenged to examine a current local issue and provide their recommendations to their town’s elected officials.
The topic at hand? What to do with the municipal skate park – a popular attraction in need of an update. Students weighed an array of options from renovating the existing park, shifting it to a nearby location, or building an entirely new one at the opposite end of town. At stake were questions of budget, land use, transportation, and recreation. After two months of research, the students crafted solutions and presented them to the Town Council and municipal staff.
Their recommendations included a range of ideas, each one demonstrating an impressive understanding of the topic. But the project was about more than just one local issue. It was about the bigger idea that all community members have a responsibility to share their voice with their local government, no matter their age. And while it is an ongoing process to keep citizens engaged, early experiences like this can make a lifetime of difference.
The entire “Teen Advisors” project, and the students’ recommendations, has been documented in a recent Virginia Municipal League magazine article. Read it here. Virginia Municipal League