A local nonprofit has launched a drive to help young people have a bigger say in the development of the county.
The United Way of Santa Cruz County is currently seeking members for a Youth Action Network, a new project meant to provide Gen Z with the chance to share its opinions and shape life in the community.
“Within our county there are no formal youth city councils,” said Amanda Gamban, community impact coordinator for the Youth Action Network. “I think ‘youth voice’ is just so vital to understanding what youth need.”
The nonprofit effort—supported by a wide range of partners, from County Park Friends, to MENtors, to Black Health Matters: Youth Ambassadors Program—is recruiting 11-21-year-olds for its steering committee.
“It’s an opportunity for youth to increase their leadership skills,” Gamban said. “It’s also an opportunity to connect with youth from across the county.”
Steering committee members will plan events and meetings, select trainings and workshops and organize collaborative activities with community leaders.
Another exciting part of the steering committee will be getting to conduct research with UCSC students on important local issues, according to Gamban.
“We really want this to be a youth-led effort,” she said, noting each municipality will designate a point-person to participate in the coalition. “We’re having each jurisdiction appoint a representative.”
The Scotts Valley City Council named councilwoman Donna Lind as its selection.
Having these kinds of mentors can be key to youth learning about ways to be effective when they want to make a difference, Gamban explained.
“They’re going to act as advisors,” she said. “Instead of going through city council meetings, and going through that formal process, we’re hoping to build relationships.”
Others in the network include Salud y Cariño, Digital Nest: Nest Corps and Friday Night Live.
Gamban says she’s seeking additional community partners in the Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley regions.