Teens get on-the-job training

admin | 12/28/2011, 7:30 a.m.

Thirty sworn in for Countys first Youth Commission

The new faces of Miami-Dade County Hall are not salt-and-peppered, nor do they have the creases in their foreheads associated with years of hard work in the trenches. Instead, they are teenagers, ranging in age from 15 to 18 years and are newly-sworn in members of Miami-Dade Countys first Youth Commission. The commission, the brainchild of County Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan, was developed to provide young residents an opportunity to learn and participate in County government by articulating the issues and needs of youth in the community. The swearing-in ceremony and certificate presentation was held at County Hall on Monday, Dec. 19th. In their new positions, members of the Youth Commission will advise the mayor and commissioners on matters and programs affecting the youth and teen populations. The Miami-Dade Juvenile Services Department, under the auspices of the County's Violence Intervention Project (VIP), has also been behind the initiative's implementation. Its a very positive endeavor because it allows young people to have a say in what happens in local government while bringing the issues of their peers to County Hall, said Morris Copeland, 44, director of Juvenile Services. Now those who are impacted by certain laws have the opportunity to have their voices heard and fears and needs addressed. "It makes me so proud to see how these bright, young minds are moving forward and developing an understanding on how local government works, Jordan said. Each commissioner appointed a student representing each of the secondary schools in his or her district. The appointments were made based on nominations by Miami-Dade County Public Schools and an orientation process. To be qualified, students had to be in the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, have a minimum 2.0 grade point average, demonstrate a sincere interest and motivation to work for the community and have a background in community-based activities. The Youth Commission is currently focusing its efforts on preventing violencein schools and is planning a community event for the upcoming year. The first meeting was televised and took place in the Commission Chambers at Government Center where pertinent youth-related issues were discussed. This takes the mystery out of the process of county government and makes it accessible to young people who normally would never get such an opportunity, Copeland added. Beyond that, it will expand the way our young people think and allow them to see government in a much different and more positive light. Michael Ivory, 15, a sophomore at North Miami Senior High School, agrees. Its been great so far to be part of the Commission and pretty exciting too, he said. I have been able to already work with local government officials and represent the mayors office. I have done this kind of thing before never to this extent. In middle school I was a member of Project Citizen. Now I feel like I am actually a part of government, even though we dont make the laws. Our participation will make a real difference in reducing violence in our community. We see it every day. By D. Kevin McNeir kmcneir@miamitimesonline.com