ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today signed an executive order announcing the members of the inaugural Youth Engagement Leadership Workgroup. The new workgroup, comprised of more than two dozen diverse young people, will advise the County on how to engage with and support young people. Photos from the event can be found here.
At a time when we see concerning youth violence and metal health challenges, this is our moment to empower our young people to promote health, healing, growth, and safer communities,” said Ball. “This powerful group will help us ensure that all our young people, whether they are 15 or 25, will always have a seat at the table. To our young people – we see you, we hear you, and we value you. There is no decision that’s worth being made without our young people at the front and center.
Thirty percent of the County’s population is 25 years old and younger. Over the next year, the workgroup will meet monthly to come up with ideas and strategies on issues facing young people in the County.
“Youth engagement is essential to creating policies that reflect our values and are tailored to meet the needs of our communities. It is important to invest in our young people by empowering them with meaningful opportunities to shape their own futures, and I am grateful for the chance to hear directly from them,” said Dr. Daria J. Willis, Howard Community College President.
As a Civic Engagement intern for the Office of Student Life at Howard Community College, I have realized the real why behind low student voter turnout. It’s not due to lack of interest, but rather because most young people think that their vote and voice is not important. Through serving on this workgroup, I will empower students so that they know and feel their vote and voice are important.
Under the Executive Order, the Youth Engagement Leadership Workgroup is tasked with:
- Providing recommendations on best practices and strategies to engage and support young people;
- Advising the County Executive on whether this Workgroup should be permanently established, including the potential process, composition, and duties of a permanent commission;
- Organizing and hosting at least one town hall to solicit feedback and input on issues affecting young people in Howard County to further promote mutual understanding and foster stronger relationships that encourage a more inclusive community;
- Submitting a comprehensive report on the progress of the Workgroup, in addition to current and emerging issues affecting young people in Howard County; and
- Conducting monthly meetings which shall include the members of the Workgroup and designated staff. The meetings shall be open to the public. A member of the Workgroup is deemed to have resigned from the Workgroup if absent from three consecutive meetings without reason.
“In today's society, it is critical that we support leaders from all walks of life so that we can all achieve our goals together,” said Inaya Ahmed, a graduating senior from River Hill High School. “I hope my story, along with others, motivates young people in Howard County to take initiative to be bold to be their true selves.”
The workgroup consists of more than two dozen young people from every corner of the county, the community college, university students, and the workforce. Ages range from 15 to 25 years old.
“I am incredibly lucky to have had the chance to learn about public policy and government from a young age as my dad would always encourage me to read the news and talk about it as a family,” said Rohan Warrier, a rising Senior at Oakland Mills High School. “Crucially, this workgroup allows Howard County the ability to give students of all backgrounds and experiences the chance to make a change.”
Recently, the County also announced the first round of grantees for the Youth Engagement Programming (YEP!) Grant program. These empowering YEP! grants are designed to support nonprofit organizations that are expanding or creating new programs for youth in Howard County, with a particular focus on mental health, wellness, and social-emotional learning. The 13 awardees will help provide safe and healthy outlets to nurture our young people in supportive environments.
“As a Latinx, I appreciate how diverse and inclusive Howard County is but it’s important for us to have spaces to connect and collaborate as a community,” said Nelson Espinoza, a Howard Community College student. “I’m looking forward to bringing my voice to the table to keep Howard County the welcoming place it is.”
At the end of 18 months, the workgroup will provide feedback to the County Executive on the possibility of establishing a permanent commission of youth leaders to advise County Government on issues affecting young people in Howard County.
“I believe that this workgroup is an important first step in engaging students in policy and politics to show their voice matters,” Carly Greenberger, a rising Senior at Atholton High School. “When students know that their words and actions can have an impact on their day-to-day lifestyle, they will be more prone to actively participate in a meaningful way.”
More information regarding the workgroup can be found here.