Youth Engagement Task Force drawing interest from students

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Tacoma teenagers have the opportunity for an interesting civics lesson beginning next year. In November, Mayor Victoria Woodards announced the establishment of a Youth Engagement Task Force. Tacoma residents between the ages of 13 and 19 were encouraged to apply. This is part of a process to create the city’s first Youth Commission.

Management fellow Bucoda Warren presented an update on the process during the Dec. 18 study session. Outreach was conducted in October and November. Flyers were dropped off at all 10 public high schools in Tacoma, as well as at Summit Olympus Charter School. Invitations were e-mailed to all 99 applicants for Student Government Day. Presentations were made after school at Foss High School and Lincoln High School. Tacoma Public Schools provided information to teachers and families.

There was a total of 126 applicants. Staff provided the council with demographic information on the students. Females accounted for 66 percent, with males at 27 percent and 7 percent for non-binary. In terms of race, whites were the highest number at 31 percent, followed by 22 percent of students listing two or more races and blacks at 16 percent. Asian Americans were next at 13 percent, followed by Hispanics at 11 percent, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders at 5 percent and Native American/Alaskan Natives at 2 percent.

In terms of grade level, 11th graders topped the list at 24 percent, with 12th graders right behind at 23 percent. Sophomores are 19 percent, freshmen 15 percent, eighth graders 11 percent, seventh graders 6 percent and college students at 2 percent.

Lincoln High School, the mayor’s alma mater, topped the list of schools with the most applicants at 15. In second place is Science and Math Institute at 12, with Foss and Stadium High School tied at 11 each. The remaining schools are: Annie Wright, 10; Wilson, 8; School of the Arts, 8; Mount Tahoma, 8; Gray Middle School, 8; Charles Wright, 5; School of Industrial Design, Engineering and Art, 4; Meeker Middle School, 4; Bellarmine Prep, 4; Washington High School, 2; Oakland High School, 2; Bryant Montessori Middle School, 2; home school, 1; Tacoma Baptist, 1; Tacoma Community College, 1;  Mason Middle School, 1; Saint Patrick’s, 1, Summit Olympus, 1; Stewart Middle School, 1; Giaudrone Middle School, 1; Baker Middle School, 1; American School Online, 1.

Based on Council districts, District 5 (South Tacoma) was first with 23 percent of the applicants, followed by District 1 (North End and West End) at 18 percent. Next was District 3 (Central) at 18 percent, followed by District 2 (North End and Northeast Tacoma) at 14 percent and District 4 (East Side) at 13 percent.

A selection meeting was held on Nov. 29. The stakeholders suggested a new process to get all of the applicants engaged in the program. So far, 82 of the applicants have expressed an intent to participate in the larger task force.

A series of meetings will be held in the first half of 2019. They will be held on Saturdays at various locations. Graduate Tacoma and Asia Pacific Cultural Center are two organizations that have offered their office as a meeting place. Other meetings may be held on school campuses. The first would be on Jan. 12 and would serve as an orientation and time for group assignments. The Jan. 26 meeting will have a facilitator from the Institute for Civic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. giving a presentation. Topics have not been finalized for the remaining five meetings. The program will allow student to learn from local leaders, cultivate a deeper understanding of local government and gain communications skills, among other goals. Participants will receive a letter of recommendation from the mayor and council, and Tacoma Public Schools students can earn two graded class credits through Next Move.

The city will provide food and transportation assistance, and staff would coordinate on credits for students eligible to receive them from their school. By July, the group will have a proposal for the formation of the Tacoma Youth Commission.

The mayor said that she is impressed by the number of applicants. Councilmember Lillian Hunter noted this program is a priority for the mayor. She applauded “the impressive work” put into it thus far. Councilmember Conor McCarthy suggested a topic for one of the meetings involve courts and the legal system.

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