Twelve Dane County high school students will be inducted into the county’s new Youth Governance Program on Thursday, June 7 at the Dane County Board meeting with a reception and pinning ceremony. The youth represent all four Madison high schools as well as Edgewood High School, Stoughton High School, and one homeschooled youth. These bright and passionate high school students include: Jalika Ceesay (grade 11), Hannah Craig (grade 10), Brianna Crooks (grade 9), Luke Gangler (grade 10), Na’ndi Hambrick (grade 11), Alyssa Ivy (grade 9), Blair Karlsson-Ellifson (grade 10), Brianna Lesch (grade 10), Cruz Morales (grade 11), Jennifer Neblett (grade 10), Colin Paiva (grade 9), and David Severson (grade 9).
The youth were selected from a pool of applicants who were nominated by teachers and other adults who work closely with them. After an interview process, they were chosen to sit on six of the standing committees of the county board, two on each committee, along with supervisors. The youth members will contribute to committee decisions through advisory votes.
“The students will bring a needed youth voice to community issues and concerns,” said County Supervisor Melissa Sargent, who serves on the Youth Commission and was the lead sponsor of the resolution to create the Youth Governance Program. “This will be a wonderful educational and empowerment opportunity for our county’s high school leaders.”
The development of the Youth Governance Program began in early 2011, when several County Board members, Department of Human Services staff, and University of Wisconsin-Extension, Cooperative Extension staff met to discuss the possibility of involving youth in Dane County government. A study committee including former Supervisor Tom Stoebig, and current supervisors Melissa Sargent, Dianne Hesselbein, and Matt Veldran and assisted by Lesly Scott and Carrie Edgar from UW-Extension studied other youth in government initiatives in the state, most notably the program in Kenosha County. From this model, the study committee designed and garnered support for Dane County’s Youth Governance Program.
“Students interested in government will now get direct, hands-on experience on the county board,” said County Supervisor Matt Veldran, a member of the Youth Commission and the University Extension Committee. “Their voices will be part of the debate, their votes will be part of the record.”
The purpose of the Youth Governance Program is to offer greater opportunities for youth leadership development and youth empowerment in Dane County through direct participation in county government decision-making; to provide real-life learning opportunities for youth in the functioning of local government; and to bring a direct youth voice to community issues and concerns while fostering the development of confident, capable and independent leaders for the next generation.
“It is exciting to see this finally come into place after studying the program and implementing it across the county,” said County Supervisor Dianne Hesselbein. “I really look forward to working with the students and hearing their perspective and ideas on how to make Dane County an even better place to live.”
Youth will serve one-year terms starting in June, and they may reapply for a second one-year term.