Pythagoras said over 2,500 years ago, “The beginning of every government starts with the education of our youth.” And it’s been proven to be true ever since.
Fountain Hills has an excellent program for our local high school students that engages them in community service and learning about local government. The Mayor’s Youth Council is a unique opportunity available to 9th-12th grade students and currently consists of seventeen teenagers.
WHAT IS THE MAYOR’S YOUTH COUNCIL?
The Mayor’s Youth Council gives local youth opportunities to share their perspectives on issues that are important to them and their peers. They act as a liaison between the Mayor, the Town Council, the Town Manager, and the other youth of our community. They learn how our local and state government function and have opportunities to lead programs that appeal to their age group.
“This isn’t a program for young people who are half-hearted in participating,” says Mayor Ginny Dickey. “Time after time, we see these youth commit their time and energy to the opportunities presented to them.”
It’s a dynamic group of students dedicated to serving the community and interested in volunteerism and civic participation. Along the way, they learn valuable leadership skills that will have lifelong benefits.
“As the median age in our community gets older,” says Mayor Dickey, “it’s important for people to see kids interacting positively. These young people are positive role models, which shows when you see them cleaning yards, running activities, and engaging with local government.”
ACTIVITIES & OPPORTUNITIES
The program participants stay active throughout the entire school year. They meet twice a month at the Town Hall, where they work with town officials and members of the Town Council.
“The students start in August by joining us at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns Conference,” says Mayor Dickey. “One of the students carries our town flag during the kickoff. Then they all go to their mini-conference for the day, where they meet other high school students across Arizona. It’s a great way for them to begin learning about how local government works.”
From that introduction to their role in the Mayor’s Youth Council, the opportunities for service and leadership continue to unfold.
“There are several ongoing projects along with great field trips they participate in,” says Mayor Dickey. “They take an annual field trip to the State Capitol, maintain an Adopt-a-Street on Westby Drive, Make-a-Difference Day, and lead other community service projects.”
These activities promote a sense of civic involvement and community pride, giving them a platform for learning responsible leadership.
Toastmasters has also contributed to the Mayor’s Youth Council program by offering public speaking sessions to the students. They learn how to give better reports in school, successfully navigate job interviews, and other skills that will carry them far into their adult lives.
The students also have the opportunity to tackle other unique projects as a group.
“I kept getting requests from people to make Fountain Hills a Golden Rule Community,” said Mayor Dickey. “So, I mentioned it to the Mayor’s Youth Council one day. They looked into it, got the information, and went through the process of getting a proclamation as a Golden Rule Community.”
The students worked with Rev. Larry Fultz from the Arizona Interfaith Movement, who gave guidance as they worked on the project. On April 6, 2021, Town Council declared that date Golden Rule Day in Fountain Hills, and Mayor Dickey issued a proclamation, bringing the work of these students to fruition.
“Being a Golden Rule Community means that our leadership is committed to using this universal rule in all our dealings with citizens. It also asks the residents to make an effort to treat one another the way they wish to be treated. In this proclamation, we commit to four pillars of behavior: respect, kindness, civility, and empathy.”
In this proclamation, Fountain Hills joined eight other Arizona cities that have made the same commitment, including Flagstaff, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, Scottsdale, Surprise, Apache Junction, and Tempe.
The Mayor’s Youth Council took on a second project last year through a Mental Health Awareness campaign. The students met with the Attorney General’s office to find resources and people to share their experiences with mental health challenges. The student’s felt a strong connection to this topic, especially as they began tackling it amid the COVID pandemic.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Applications are being accepted for the 2023/2024 Mayor’s Youth Council session. Applicants can fill out an application online HERE, or reach out to Ryan Preston at email@example.com or at 480-816-5130. Applications are due April 14, 2023.