Mayor’s Youth Council members pose with Mayor Sylvester Turner and Department of Neighborhoods director TaKasha Francis and staff. Photo: Department of Neigborhoods

Nineteen Houston-area high school students were selected out of a pool of more than 100 applicants between the ages of 14-18 to become members of the 2021-22 Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC). The members were chosen through an interview process conducted by the selections committee.

“I am proud to welcome the new members of the Mayor’s Youth Council and look forward to hearing from them about the issues that impact young people and their communities,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner during the inaugural ceremony at City Hall.

The Mayor’s Youth Council is modeled after the elected City Council, with each member representing a single-member or at-large district. Photo: Department of Neighborhoods

“They are the leaders of today and tomorrow, and we welcome their perspectives and creative ideas for addressing the challenges our communities face,” Turner said.

MYC was established in 1998 to provide youth the opportunity to exchange ideas with elected officials, share their concerns about issues impacting young people, learn about the inner workings of city government and gain civic leadership experience skills through community service activities.

The council is modeled after the elected City Council, with members representing 11 single-member districts and five at-large districts. The program is administered by the Department of Neighborhoods.

“At the Department of Neighborhoods, we pride ourselves as being ‘The People’s Department’ and we strive to improve the quality of life for all Houstonians no matter what district they live in and so do these students,” said MYC Advisor Jesse Gutierrez.

“These youth are driven and accomplished. I want to give the power back to the youth and put the decision-making in their hands. I’m there to facilitate their vision for their ideas.”

During their tenure, the students will be involved in community and leadership development activities including the UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative, Youth Bill of Rights, coordinating town halls at area high schools to address issues impacting youth, and a monthly service-learning project. 

Folakemi Elekolusi is a 16-year-old Harmony School of Innovation and MYC member representing Council District At-Large 5. She joined the council to find solutions around the lack of interest in politics some young people have. One idea she has includes hosting a full day “simulated election” in schools where young people experience a mock national or local election.

“Being a part of this council means having direct access to city officials. Young people have passion but feel ignored by government officials because of their age,” she said. “We need to find ways to connect and advertise to young people on social media and other means where it’s easy to communicate with this demographic.”

The MYC term of office runs from October 2021 to May 2022.

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...