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UC Cooperative Extension brings new opportunities to Placer County youth

The Issue

Research shows that engaging youth in civic activities is the most effective way to promote civic identity formation and subsequent civic engagement in adulthood. In addition, young people want to create positive change in their communities and feel that to truly impact issues affecting youth, young people themselves need to be involved.

Youth commissions provide a real-world setting for youth leadership and civic development. Giving young people an authentic voice in local policy and decision-making benefits both the youth and the greater community.

What Has ANR Done?

In response to growing community interest in a Placer County youth commission, Placer County 4-H advisor Shannon Dogan and Kara Sutter of the Placer County Department of Health and Human Services began working with community partners and youth to establish a youth commission. UCCE served as the lead agency.

In February of 2009, 12 high school students were recruited to begin developing a mission statement, goals and structure for the commission. The students presented their ideas to community partners to gather input.

Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes brought forth a resolution and set of bylaws developed by the youth at the Board of Supervisors' May 12, 2009 meeting.

The Payoff

Placer County teens form youth commission

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to form a 15-member Placer County Youth Commission composed of youth between the ages of 14 and 21 representing each of the five supervisory districts.

The passage of the resolution and establishment of a youth commission marks institutional change in the county by creating a formalized opportunity for the youth voice to influence policy and decision-making.

Additionally, as a result of their participation in this process, the founding members reported significant increases on several indicators of civic engagement. In addition, all but one agreed or strongly agreed that they learned about local government and decision-making, and the same number affirmed that that they are now more interested in local government. All of the students said they want to take action in their community and that they had opportunities to interact with adults in a meaningful way.

Clientele Testimonial

"We have thoughts, ideas, and opinions - and very good ones, I think." - Louis Lazar, a founding team member


Supporting Unit: 4-H Youth Development Program

Shannon J. Dogan, Ph.D., 4-H Youth Development advisor, (530) 889-7386, sjdogan@ucdavis.edu