By Mary Owen
Ashleigh Clugston, 15, doesn’t pay taxes, can’t vote and until recently didn’t have the opportunity to serve in her community.
A student at Cascade High School and resident of Aumsville, Clugston is grateful she now has an avenue to have a say in her community.
She was the first Aumsville teen to apply for a position on the Aumsville Youth Council, and will serve as chair.
“I think having a council directed toward youth is great,” Clugston said, adding she has an interest in community government. “As a citizen of Aumsville, it seems like the city council is more focused on the ‘actual adult members’ of the community. … So having a council directly for the youth is comforting.”
The idea of a youth council started several months ago when City Councilors Nico Casarez and Drew Wright decided Aumsville youth needed to become more involved with the goings-on of the town.
“We talked it over, sat down with City Administrator Maryann Hills and made it happen,” Casarez said.
The council passed a resolution at its August meeting to form the AYC, modeled after existing youth councils in the area. Goals of the newly formed council are: to serve as a voice of youth in the community; to represent youth, for youth and by youth, within city government; and to increase youth involvement in the community.
Casarez said several more teens have turned in applications to be AYC members.
“Next year, our objective is to elect teens to the council,” Wright said. “Nico and I will interview the applicants to see what they will bring to city government. We will then forward the names of those we feel will be an asset to the youth council. The youth of the city will vote, and those with the highest number of votes will then be elected to the council.”
Meanwhile, interested teens may pick up applications at Aumsville City Hall.
“We want people to know that adolescents can be more involved in city government,” Clugston said. “We hope to accomplish through the AYC more of a voice for youth on activities and other city issues.”
Clugston heard of the AYC’s formation through Casarez.
“It sounded like a good idea,” she said. “What a lot of the older generations that are running our community don’t understand is that the youth of Aumsville make up a vast portion of the community. By having this council, it is assured that everyone will be equally represented.”
The first monthly AYC meeting was Sept. 15 at the Chester Bridges Memorial Community Center.
Just like at regular city council meetings, “members will talk about issues, ideas, concerns and ways youth can be more implemented in the city,” Wright said. “This will give them a rough idea of what it means to be in city government, and what government officials have to deal with on a regular basis.”
Casarez and Wright will act as liaison between the AYC and the Aumsville City Council, bridging the gap between youth council ideas and city council actions.
“We hope that as a result of this process, members of the AYC become more informed citizens and become positive role models for other youth in the community,” Casarez said.
“We’re hoping that the youth members will serve long enough in their position to gain experience, maybe join other city committees or even run for city council in the future.”
Wright added, “My hope for this council is to let young people know we’re here to represent them, as well as to get them more open to share their ideas.
“We’re excited and raring to go,” he said.
As an added bonus, he added, “This opportunity will look good on college applications and career resumes. Colleges are always looking for community service efforts these days.”
The Aumsville Youth Council will be a great asset for young people and for the city, the councilors agreed.
“We really are citizens who should have a say in our government,” Clugston said.
The AYC, Clugston added, will help Aumsville youth make a positive difference in city government.
“I’m just happy to be a part of that change,” she said.
For information on becoming an AYC member or about the new group, contact Aumsville City Hall, 503-749-2030.