“The Youth Commission Convention was one of the most impactful things I’ve done as a part of Marin County Youth Commission.”
Ethan Strull shared this reflection during the closing activity of the final Marin County Youth Commission (MCYC) meeting of the year. Ethan currently serves as the co-chair for MCYC and sat on the planning committee for the first annual Youth Commission Convention (YCC). The Convention was filled with much learning and more importantly the opportunity for youth to build community with one another as youth advocates fighting for positive change in their communities.
On April 22, the MCYC invited six youth commissions to share best practices, learning lessons, and challenges they have encountered. Youth leaders from Fresno Youth Commission, Marin County Youth Commission, Oakland Youth Advisory Commission, San Francisco Youth Commission, San Mateo Youth Commission, and Santa Clara Youth Commission gathered together at the Greenlining Institute in Oakland to attend the event.
The convention was planned and facilitated by youth with support from their adult allies. The planning committee dedicated time to intentionally thinking through the activities to ensure that participants would walk away with valuable skills including legislative advocacy, meeting with elected officials, and community engagement. One of the highlights of the day was MCYC youth facilitating a group think session. Commissions were given the opportunity to share an issue they were experiencing and youth collectively brainstormed possible solutions and offered advice to address those issues. Commissioners were surprised to learn that they faced common issues and were not alone in their efforts to lead a successful youth commission.
Former Supervisor of Marin Steve Kinsey, a longtime supporter of youth advocacy, joined us as the keynote speaker for the convention. Ethan reflected from Kinsey’s talk, “He said even when we don’t agree with a politician, we should still congratulate them on the work they’ve done to appreciate them. When I meet with adults I usually feel overshadowed and I am always trying to look critically at their work, but I realized if I was in a politician’s position, I would want someone to acknowledge the ways I try to serve and support my community. That helped me gain some perspective for my role as a youth commissioner.”
Kinsey shared his reflections about the need for youth voice at decision making tables, especially in our current political climate. Kinsey ended his inspirational speech on discussing white privilege and imploring youth commissioners to think deeply about the impact of race and racism in their communities and the necessity to advocate for equity through every step of the political process.
Youth commissioners shared their personal experiences with our staff throughout the day. The Oakland Youth Commission representative expressed her appreciation because the event was hosted in her city making it accessible for her and her fellow commissioners. She reiterated the importance of youth meetings in locations accessible via public transportation. When asked what specific skills, knowledge, or ideas participants of YCC gained as a result of attending the convention, participants shared the following:
“I learned strategies on how to recruit people, more about lobbying, and how to run good meetings with officials.”
“I learned the importance of finding common ground with elected officials.”
“Foundational strategies for implementing successful youth commissions.”
The convention proved to be instrumental for Youth Commission staff members, who shared that they gained ideas about potential campaigns and strategies to address issues of accountability with youth. As a follow up, Youth Commission staff intend to meet quarterly to discuss successes and and problem solve ways to improve our effectiveness in supporting the youth we serve. After a day filled with community building, problem solving, and skill building, 95% of students said they felt empowered to be sitting on a youth commission in their county and 100% of respondents said they were committed to creating change.
See more photos of the Youth Commission Convention.
The Youth Commission Convening was made possible with generous support from the Marin County Board of Supervisors and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.