MIAMI — Twenty-six high school students have begun serving as Miami-Dade County's first Youth Commission. The students, ages 15 to 18, will advise the county mayor and commissioners on matters and programs affecting the youth and teen population.
The idea for the panel came from District 1 Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan, who sees it as a way to provide young residents an opportunity to learn and participate in county government.
The Miami-Dade Juvenile Services Department, under the umbrella of the county's Violence Intervention Project (VIP), was also behind the initiative's implementation.
“The Youth Commission’s insight will give us an insider’s perspective on violence and other issues our children face every day,” Jordan said. “Miami-Dade has always provided programs we feel are in the best interests of local youth but who better to comment on or tweak these programs and legislation than the students themselves?”
Each commissioner appointed a student representing each of the secondary schools in his or her district as a voting member. A group of non-voting members was chosen by the offices of the mayor, the county manager, the clerk of the board, the agenda coordinator and the Miami-Dade County School Board. They will have a chance to understudy the official who appointed them.
The students were formally welcomed to the County Commission in a March 15 ceremony at the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami.
The appointments were made based on nominations by Miami-Dade County Public Schools and an orientation process. To qualify, 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.
Some responsibilities of the Youth Commission include fostering increased youth involvement in county government, holding forums on issues concerning youths, recommending community programs beneficial to youths, commenting on proposed legislation impacting youths and submitting an annual report of activities to the mayor and commissioners.
Additionally, each member will meet quarterly with the official who appointed him or her to discuss teen and community issues of concern to them.
The Youth Commission will meet at the call of the commission chairperson or at the request of the majority of the membership but no less than once a month and will be subject to the Government in the Sunshine and Public Records laws. Members will serve one-year terms initially but no more than two terms.
The voting members of the inaugural Youth Commission are Plukit K. Agrawal, Tyler Jonathan Allen, Jonathan Berger, Tori Cohen, Marica Daniels, Arielle Derival, Amy Jennifer Diaz.
Also, Rocio Sevilla Dieguez, Gianina Sofia Ernand, Joy R. Fowler, JJ Lehrman, Natalie Francesca Mesa, Brenda Abreu Molnar, Clarence Moore, Sharonda Moore, Alejandro Moreno, Dominique Mortimer.
Also, Sherrika Othello, Peter Ramon, Natalie Roberts, Daniela Salinas and Camonique White.
The non-voting members are Michael Berrios, Jordan Jamaal Byrd, Yvonne Ducatel and Igal Rojzman.
The voting members include three members of the Teen Court, another initiative that gives youths a chance to gear for leadership positions and impact official policy towards teens and young adults.
Arielle Derival is a ninth-grader at Law Enforcement Officers Memorial High School and president of the Law Club. She has participated in two Teen Court attorney training sessions at St. Thomas University and attends Teen Court at the North Courthouse location.
Sharonda Moore, a 12th grader at William H. Turner Technical Arts High School, participates in Teen Court at the Gerstein Courthouse.
Natalie Roberts is a 12th grader in the Law Program at the School for Advanced Studies.