On Wednesday, Knoxville announced the appointment of 17 youths to a council dedicated to addressing city issues through “strategic planning.” The “Mayor’s Youth Council” will work alongside the Knoxville City Council and other city officials as they focus on community organizing, leadership, and advocacy. The council has a total of four eighth-graders, three high school freshmen, four sophomores, four juniors, and two seniors representing eight schools.
The council will begin meeting over the summer. According to the mayor’s office, they will be tasked with learning municipal services, collaborating with their peers and youth-serving nonprofits, and “strategic planning.”
The city formed the Mayor’s Youth Council earlier this year. Knoxville Community Engagement Manager Kathy Mack hosted a virtual youth forum in February to collaborate with youth on the council’s creation.
Some suggestions put forward by the dozen youth in attendance included “redistribution of resources,” providing more housing, gun violence prevention legislation, “more equitable development,” cameras at schools, and “increas[ing] the value of all over emphasis on self.”
Mack said she believed that getting youth involved would help stop the violence in the city.
“A lot of times our young people are not at the table, so this is an opportunity for them to have a seat at the table and for their ideas and concerns to be heard,” said Mack. “The timing is right. I always say the timing is now to get youth people involved.”
The Mayor’s Youth Council was launched as part of the “Empower Knox” initiative, focused on providing opportunities for youth achievement in the community – especially at-risk youth.
Empower Knox began with “Save Our Sons,” a program primarily focused on reducing criminal activity in African American youth, decreasing community crime, revitalizing blighted communities, and reducing recidivism. The Mayor’s Youth Council would assist in each of those goals, from a youth perspective.
Spokespersons with the mayor’s office didn’t respond with comment by press time.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Knoxville Skyline” by Nathan C. Fortner. CC BY-SA 3.0.