Teens get a taste of service and government with Youth CouncilSep 07, 2023 03:25PM ● By Elisa Eames
More than 50 new members of the Herriman Youth Council were sworn in at the city council meeting on July 12. The Youth Council allows Herriman teens aged 14 to 18 to learn about and participate in local government. “At each meeting, a city leader will address [the Youth Council,]” explained Destiny Skinner, the Herriman City Youth Council Adviser. “[Leaders] will cover what [each] position [at city hall] entails and some will have hands-on activities for the youth to do…”
In addition to what they learn at Youth Council meetings, which take place on the second Thursday of each month, council members may take advantage of several educational opportunities during their terms. Council terms begin yearly on July 1 and end on June 30.
The Utah state legislature hosts an annual Youth Day where Herriman legislators meet with Youth Council members to give them a glimpse of government on a state level. Speaking of the most recent Youth Day, Skinner revealed, “Representative Perucci [of Herriman] was very good to meet with [our youth], explain how she became involved, how legislation works, and [give] them a tour of the Capitol. We also [sat] in on a session to witness the process.”
Teens from all over the state will also attend the two-and-a-half-day Youth Council Leadership Conference in March 2024 at Utah State University. The conference will include sessions about leadership, state and local government, career exploration, team building, mental health and character building.
Council members may further their knowledge by shadowing an official from a department of their choosing to see what city jobs are really like. Shadowing generally takes place during school breaks.
In addition to the many opportunities to learn, council members also spend much of their time serving. “The Herriman Youth Council has also adopted the Mountain View Corridor between 11800 South and 13400 South. We will do four cleanups per term,” Skinner said. “We usually also have either an event or service project each month as well.”
Herriman youth aid in the organization and implementation of service projects, city events and fundraisers. “They help with multiple things from checking bathrooms, emptying garbage, to manning and running activity stations,” Skinner said. Parking assistance and even securing restricted areas at events are other ways they serve. Look for them at Herriman events such as the Basket Dash, Memorial Day Breakfast and Ceremony, Fort Herriman Towne Days and PRCS Rodeo, Herriman Howl, Night of Lights and others.
Council members must also complete a legacy service project before their terms end each June 30. Among the projects completed for the 2022 to 2023 term was a food drive for the Utah Food Bank conducted by Adam Wardle, Rebecca Dansie and Ben Dansie. “Homelessness and hunger [are] rising due to increased costs of food and living expenses,” the three explained in a presentation given at the July 12 city council meeting. “289,000 Utahns, which equates to 1 in 11 individuals, are at risk of missing a meal today.”
The trio made 120 flyers, stapled them to plastic bags donated by Smith’s Food and Drug, and distributed them within the community. Households placed food into the bags, and the three youths then collected the donations and delivered them to the food bank. “I learned that by helping people, we not only help them but also ourselves,” Ben said. His sister, Rebecca, added “One person with an idea, with the help of many can produce wonderful things.”
Another legacy project completed for the prior term was a podcast made specifically for Herriman teens by Alyssa Sokol, Sunny Sokol, Addy Gilham and Kaylee Gilham. Alyssa and her mother recognized that the youth needed a local resource to help them learn about their city. Soon Alyssa’s little sister, Sunny, Alyssa’s friend Addy, and Addy’s little sister, Kaylee, joined the efforts, and their solution was to create an eight-episode podcast where each episode discussed a different topic relevant to local teens. The eight subjects include an introduction to Herriman City and the Youth Council, what to do if you get pulled over by a police officer, volunteering, neurodiversity, scholarships, managing anxiety, substance abuse and getting a job.
For each episode, the girls conducted first-hand interviews with city officials, Mountain Ridge High School personnel and industry professionals. Addy mentioned that her favorite interview was with a police officer at Mountain Ridge. “It was cool to see what [police officers] do… it was informative,” she said.
Alyssa’s favorite episode was about volunteering. “For [this] episode, we talked to the mayor, who was really great… We talked about the benefits and options of volunteering… because it’s daunting sometimes to find volunteer opportunities,” she noted. “Service is easier than we all think of it as being.” Skinner has been working to make the podcast available on the city’s website.
The city encourages any youth who would like to join the Herriman Youth Council to apply next year. Skinner revealed, “We have not capped the number of youths we accept. If they are Herriman residents or attend a Herriman high school, do the application and go through the interview process, they are accepted on to Youth Council.” λ