Youth Council gives up-close view of government

For the sixth consecutive year, the city of Rochester Hills is offering some of the city’s brightest young residents an opportunity to get involved in government through the Government Youth Council.

On Monday, 15 high-school students were sworn in by City Clerk Jane Leslie to form the 2011-12 youth council. The students represent public and private high-schools, including the International Academy, and all four of the city’s city-council districts.

This year 27 students applied for youth council. All submitted references and were interviewed. Fifteen were appointed, including seven newcomers and all eight of last year’s members who were not graduating.

Newcomer Pranita Balusu will be a sophomore at Rochester High this fall. She heard about youth council from a family friend.

“I thought it was really cool kids got the opportunity to participate in government and the mayor would listen to our input so we could do something to make a difference,” she said. “I’m really interested in helping people out in the community.”

Scott Schlagel, a sophomore at Rochester High, is returning for a second year. He said he enjoyed the activities the council participated in last year, especially a 5k race that raised money for charity. He said he got past any shyness he might have felt about asking for donations and hopes to raise even more money next year.

 Schlagel said his first year on youth council was fun, but also much more than that.

“I also learned a lot about managing your time, a lot about council, how city government works, a lot about communicating to adults,” he said. “I think we had a really strong year.”

Eric LaRose, a junior at Notre Dame Prep, is also coming back for a second year.

“I’ve always had way more interest in government than most people tend to,” he said. “I’ve just been interested in debating with people, and that’s a lot of what politics is.” He too said the 5k race was the highlight of the year. Though preparations took up half the year, “It was really very rewarding in the end,” he said.

As for the coming year, “Sometimes I feel like we need to do more to reach out to teens in the area,” he said. Though youth-council members register 18-year-olds to vote, “I feel like most of what we do is aimed toward adults,” he said.

A term on youth council runs concurrent with the school year. LaRose said it takes priority for him over other extra-curricular activities.

“It takes up a lot of time but it’s spread out over a long time so it doesn’t get in the way of other stuff,” he said. “This is my most important activity.”

The other teens appointed Monday are: Scott Difilippo, Farha Hanif, Sean Kosecki, Laisa Magucha and Edward Schodowski from Rochester High; Amith Diwakar from the International Academy; Susanna Jang, Jacqueline Markey, Michelle Thorpe, Francesca Tiberio and Ashish Tripathi from Adams High; and Nicholas Michetti from Brother Rice.

Whether they are considering a future in government or not, youth council could be an important stepping stone for its members. A former member, Sam Kilberg, who graduated from Rochester High in 2009, was in attendance at Monday’s meeting. He said he was just back from a summer in China, where he studied thanks to a State Department program.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without youth council,” he said. “It was something I see as a stepping stone for my life.”


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