Marin County Youth Commission

“The MCYC has helped me to realize the power of our words, and the power of understanding how to use our own voice. It has helped me to comprehend how much we can gain just by doing what is utterly forbidden-talking out issues with the ones we trust, event if that means (dare I say) talking about politics at the dinner table.” – Ruby Ray Clarke, 10th Grader

New Commissioners swear in at Marin City Hall

Founded in 1969, the Marin County Youth Commission (MCYC) is one of the oldest and most well regarded youth commissions in the United States. Made up of 23 youth ages 12-23 years, MCYC’s goal is to act as a political voice for young people — particularly underserved youth populations, including youth of color, youth with disabilities, homeless youth, rural youth, and LGBTQ youth — by engaging with the Marin County Board of Supervisors and other policy makers.

At the beginning of each term, MCYC youth leaders identify issues about which they are passionate and meet with community organizations to learn about ongoing efforts to address these issues. They then organize and implement social justice campaigns, which may look like drafting public policy; engaging other youth through trainings and events; and/or conducting community-wide education.

In 2017-2018, MCYC youth leaders broke out into 4 committees to address the diverse issues facing Marin’s youth. These include:

  • Housing – Research on organizations addressing housing and homelessness within the county revealed that there is very little youth representation in current housing efforts. This Committee is exploring campaign ideas, including creating focus group of young people across Marin to gather youth perspectives on the impacts of housing challenges on mental health, emotional health, social life, home life, and school experience, among others.
  • Education Equity – Building on work begun in 2016-17, this Committee will be surveying high schoolers to measure their understanding and knowledge of — and, in turn, the school’s success in sharing information about — A-G requirements. Students must fulfill these basic requirements in order to apply to public universities in California. Based on this research, the Committee will develop recommendations, such as creating on online portal where students can track their progress on requirements and hiring more counselors. These recommendations will be presented to Novato Unified School District.
  • Social Justice – The first ever MCYC Social Justice Committee was established in 2017 and focused on creating a Social Justice Literacy Presentation that could be offered to other young people, as well as an online curriculum to support middle and high school teachers to lead social justice conversation with students.
  • Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Prevention (ATOD) – In partnership with Alcohol Justice, this Committee is implementing on education campaign on vaping, which will share educational materials with educators, young people and parents at a school resource fair.

Recent campaign accomplishments include:

  • In 2017, MCYC organized the first ever Youth Commission Convention, bringing together youth commissioners from across the state to: 1) share best practices, leveraging each other’s experiences and lessons learned; 2) build community and network across regions; and, 3) receive a legislative advocacy training. MCYC is now working with the San Mateo Youth Commission to organize the second annual Convention, with the long-term vision of creating a statewide network of youth commissions that can advocate on state-level issues.
  • In 2017, MCYC helped to pass Social Host Ordinances in the city of Novato and county-wide that included a restorative justice approach for youth caught drinking and/or using illegal substances, covered in this Marin Independent Journal article and this YLI blog post.
  • In February 2018, the Marin County Office of Education hosted a 2-day leadership summit for over 100 students from 8 public schools across Marin. MCYC youth leaders and their adult allies were invited to facilitate 6, 90-minute trainings, exploring how racism operates in Marin and the US.

Commissioners are appointed by the Board of Supervisors in July for 1-year terms. All Marin County residents between the ages of 12-21 years are eligible — ethnically and culturally diverse youth are highly encouraged to apply. Click here for an application! They are due Friday, June 23rd.

Commissioners are expected to attend a 1-day Intro to Social Justice Training, followed by bi-monthly meetings. Occasional events, like the Social Justice Movie Night and Youth Commission Convention, are additional requirements.

For more information, contact: Wendy Pacheco at


Friday Night Live – Marin County Chapters

With chapters in 52 counties across California, Friday Night Live (FNL) is a statewide organization that seeks to address the critical issue of underage substance abuse by implementing environmental prevention campaigns. Operating out of school sites and other youth centers, the chapters support youth to become active leaders and resources in their communities.

In Marin County, YLI staff lead 3 chapters, ensuring that they are aligned with the FNL Standards of Practice and Operating Principles. FNL youth leaders are also introduced in YLI’s social justice framework, which shifts the focus from individuals to the larger patterns of injustice that target young, low-income people of color and encourage unhealthy behaviors. Young leaders emerge, as youth participants identify issues in their communities, conduct research, and implement media and policy campaigns that address health equity and substance abuse.

These Marin FNL sites are headed up by the following staff:

In 2018, the Marin FNL chapters are focusing on 2 key issues areas: mental health and substance abuse, and homelessness. In the first issue area, strategies being explored include conducting a Social Norms survey, which collects data on perceptions, behaviors and impacts associated with mental health and substance abuse. This data analyzes why and to what extent students are using illegal substances, and their perceptions of substance abuse among their peers. Actual usage is often far less than perceived, and revealing this difference can powerfully diffuse perceived pressure to use substances. The data can also inform campaigns aimed at limiting substance abuse by identifying motivations for usage, like stress, and better connecting students to resources.

  • FNL leaders are also working to gain an understanding of homelessness, housing challenges, and the policies adopted around the Bay Area to address this issue. Campaign strategies may include presenting to the Housing Commission, and/or developing a media campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

Past wins include:

  • Passage of Social Host Ordinances in the city of Novato and county-wide that included a restorative justice approach for youth caught drinking and/or using illegal substances, covered in this Marin Independent Journal article and this YLI blog post.
  • “No-Bully Solutions Team” programs and media messages (feature video and PSA’s) to educate youth on bullying, which is prevalent in early adolescent school environments.
  • A “Faux Show Party” to educate parents, school administrators, and public officials about the party scene where underage youth are drinking, showing how parties go viral, and the risky behaviors that often surface, including drunk driving, risky sexual encounters, and property damage. The demonstration was followed by a Youth Panel to provide a youth perspective for how parents can be vigilant and supportive of healthy socializing among teenagers.

Programs are open to all youth at each site, and interested youth are welcome to join at any time. Interested youth can reach out to the site coordinator. Each chapter meets twice weekly at their school site during the school year.

For general information contact: Jessica Bazan at


Marin County Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) Coalition

marin4The Marin County CMCA Coalition is working to reduce underage drinking and the impacts of alcohol on our communities by through city and county-level policy. Consisting of 8 organizations, the Coalition represents youth, school, community, government and non-profit stakeholders from communities across the county.

YLI’s role in this effort has been to build authentic youth representation and leadership, ensuring that youth voice and perspectives are included at the table. This has taken the form of trainings that help shift traditional perceptions of youth, and technical assistance to support coalition members as they integrate youth development standards of practice in recruitment, retention and authentic engagement of young people. YLI youth have led the process, developing monthly meeting agendas, facilitating meetings and trainings, leading the annual retreat, and creating a youth engagement assessment tool to measure each member’s success in engaging youth.

In the last 3-year cycle, YLI youth from Friday Night Live and the Marin County Youth Commission played a key role in the passage of the passage of Social Host Ordinances in the City of Novato and County of Marin, providing a restorative justice approach for youth caught drinking and/or using illegal substances. The policy win was covered in this Marin Independent Journal article and this YLI blog post.

Coalition meetings are open to the public. For more information, contact: Fahad Qurashi at


Student Advocacy Council

The Student Advocacy Council is a unique opportunity for students in Marin County schools to lead positive school-wide change. Piloted in 2016-2017, the program was officially launched in 2017-2018 in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the county. Approximately 12 students in each school are selected by teachers and principals to participate. Drawing on the YLI model for youth leadership development, the groups spend the initial months of the school year in capacity-building — leadership trainings, team building, and learning about social justice frameworks. Trainings are followed by research, within their school community and in schools in general, on issues affecting their schools. In partnership with teachers and YLI staff, the youth then develop and implement solutions to these issues.

In the 2017-2018 school year, the Councils are working on some of the following solutions:

  • Establishment of a wellness center
  • Creating a bilingual TA program to support English Language Learners
  • Coordinating school schedules with public transportation
  • Updating dress codes to reflect positive body images
  • Offering extra-curricular activities
  • Improving academic culture by providing after school homework programs
  • Partnering with local grocers to improve student nutrition

School sites are headed up by the following YLI staff:

  • High schools: San Marin, Novato, Marin Oaks — Johnny Xu
  • Middle schools: Hamilton, San Jose, Sinaloa — Johnny Xu
  • Elementary schools: Loma Verde, San Ramon — Anna Salem

Meetings are held twice a month at school sites, and 2 representatives from each school attend a monthly district-wide meeting with the District Superintendent. Interested youth can reach out to the site coordinator for more information about meeting times.

For general information about the program, contact: Johnny Xu at