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New Escambia County Initiative to Boost Youth Involvement in Community

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High school students get involved in a number of ways: Student government, band, and sports. But Escambia has a new initiative to inspire high schoolers to get involved in local government. WUWF reporter Abigail Megginson has more on the County’s New Youth Commission.

Before students turn 18, it can be difficult for them to get involved in politics. But Escambia’s new youth commission is trying to change that for its younger residents. In the 2019-20 academic year, 10 students from across the county will participate in the council.

District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh noticed Escambia didn’t have a youth program like other counties in Florida. He and his aide Debbie Kenney researched similar youth commissions and created one for Escambia.

“I want to give the local students in the area this vehicle, this method of learning about small government,” Bergosh said. “And [I also want to] give them the idea that if they get together in a group like the Escambia County Youth Commission they can bring ideas that we can take up as a county commission that can improve their lives.”

Bergosh says the program is geared toward high schoolers in the county. Sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply. Each commissioner will choose two students from their county. Those accepted to the commission will spend an academic year learning alongside local government leaders.

“We envision that they will work will out board and also interface with other local government boards to include the school district, school board, city council, mayor’s office,” Bergosh said. “We’re going to have a nice roadmap of events and activities for them to engage in. It’s going to culminate in a service project and/or a report.”

The end goal is for the youth commission to present a solution or an idea for the community that the county commissioners can take action on.

Shannon Breaux teaches history at Booker T Washington High School. She believes the commission will help inspire students like hers to get involved in politics at the local level.

“I think that students in general are not real interested in politics and government until it affects them in some way,” Breaux said. “And then once it affects them or something they feel passionately about then they’re ready to get involved and ready to get engaged. This youth commission would be great because [students] can learn the process and feel like they do have a voice.

Students applying to the commission may be from any school (public, private, charter, or home-school) to be eligible. They also must be sophomores and juniors in the 2019-2020 school year and have a minimum 2.5 GPA.  

Additional requirements and the application submission for the new youth commission is available at myescambia.com, and closes Feb. 28.