The Youth Advisory Council decided in their meeting on Dec. 12 upon two distinct problems to address for this year, social justice and activities for youth. The council broke off into separate subcommittees to focus on them in a shorter amount of time. Each year the new members of the council choose one or two issues to address given the constant turnover of members.
Kacy Hall, a City Management Fellow who oversees Youth Advisory Council meetings, said “when a vacancy occurs…the vacancy is advertised online on the City Board and Commission webpage. Once the applications window closes the City Council reviews the applications and appoints members during the second City Council meeting every month.”
Vacancies occur whenever a member resigns, their term expires, they graduate high school, complete their GED or reaches the age of 20.
Steve Hollis, the Human Services Manager for Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, detailed the Look Around Boone campaign, which aims to reduce the stigma around mental health. Hollis went through a short presentation of the Look Around Boone campaign, detailed the impacts of mental health as a whole, and then posed the question at the heart of the campaign…”why is there a stigma around mental health,” said Hollis. “We don’t think about it any differently than other health issues,” and through a five-year action plan the department aims to expand this mindset to all.
Senior Alex Geyer said the campaign appeared successful in raising awareness over the stigma of mental health.
Geyer said, “[Look Around is] the most noticeable campaign like this I have seen. Through the constant marketing and communication about mental illness I do think they will break down the stigma.”
After the Look Around campaign, the focus moved onto after school activities for youth, mainly how to raise awareness for them.
The Superintendent of Recreation and Community Programs for the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, Karen Chandler, explained while the Parks and Recreation Department has numerous activities aimed at youth, the turnout they see is subpar.
The city connects well with preteens and adults, but “we don’t connect with your age group well,” Chandler said. “We try to do things for teenagers, but don’t get a lot coming to our programs.” The main problem relies in an overall lack of awareness. Chandler said activities such as Shredfest and movies in the park already exist to hopefully give teens something to do in their free time, but as expressed by the council, many simply don’t know what’s happening.
With Peachjar flyers, aimed to let high schoolers know of activities after school, there’s a disconnect between what actually gets to the students. Chandler said to the council members, “Do you look at the Peachjar flyers…do you even know what that is? The Peachjar is the only way they allow us to give information…We need to find out a different way to reach you guys.”
The Youth Advisory Council brainstormed various methods to deal with the lack of awareness, such as events announced through assemblies.
“The best way to reach students is through the schools themselves,” Geyer said. “If you could somehow get StuCo and other clubs to hype up an event, the more they hype up something the more people show up.”
The meeting then divided into subcommittees to come up with ways to address social justice and the lack of awareness around activities for youth, which Geyer thinks will be especially effective.
“The subcommittees…will be very productive in tackling different issues and recommending action to the city council and other committees,” said Geyer. “I think we will be able to get more work done in different teams than before because we only meet once per month and we will be more focused [in separate subcommittees.]”
Throughout the year, the advisory council will continue to craft a report to eventually present in front of the City Council, with recommendations on how to solve the problems discovered over the course of the year.