Santa Barbara’s Youth Speak-Outs
The City of Santa Barbara’s Youth Council plays an important role in providing city leaders with information about the needs and desires of youth in their community. The council, composed of 16 high school students and 4 junior high students from the community, holds twice yearly “Youth Speak-Outs”. These forums give young people a chance to make their voice heard on important local issues that affect both youth and adults in the community. The youth council members collaborate with other area youth organizations and schools in order to draw a large number of young people to these events who represent a broad cross section of the community. Topics have included teen violence, suicide, the media’s influence on young people, graffiti, and teen drug and alcohol abuse. After each Youth Speak Out, Youth Council members make a presentation to the Mayor, City Council, and other relevant decision makers to let them know how youth in their community feel about an important local issue.
According to Teen Programs Supervisor Susan Young, the Youth Council has been very effective at creating positive change in their community. The council members have worked with local leaders to get a teen center and skate park for their city. After one speak out last year on teen drug and alcohol abuse, the youth council made a presentation to the city council asking them to consider passing a social host ordinance, which would hold adults who host parties with underage drinking youth legally responsible. The city council asked youth commission members to work with them on developing and writing the ordinance, and asked two of the teens to join city council members on the committee that considered the issue. When the committee voted to go ahead with the ordinance and send it to the full city council for final approval, members of the Youth Council, along with youth from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Teen Coalition, made a presentation at the city council meeting about why they thought the ordinance should be passed. The city council voted unanimously to approve the social host ordinance in July of 2008.