The Clermont Youth Council recently shared an inspiring experience connecting with state legislators in Tallahassee.
The City of Clermont brought the teens to the Florida League of Cities’ annual Youth Council Civic Education Days on March 26 during Legislative Action Days.
“The City of Clermont is glad to invest in tomorrow’s leaders,” City Manager Darren Gray said. “The Clermont Youth Council embodies the Champion spirit as passionate leaders in the community.”
Twenty-seven teens participated from six cities – Clermont, Dade City, Haines City, Hollywood, Largo and Titusville. Clermont’s first ever youth council was well represented with eight members, led by Youth Council Sponsor and City Clerk Tracy Ackroyd Howe.
“This opportunity strengthened our Youth Council,” Howe said. “I’m proud of them.”
The teens connected with state leaders, exchanged ideas with other youth councils, and became even more unified as a council, Howe said.
The youth marched to Florida’s Capitol to meet their legislators. The Clermont Youth Council visited the offices of Sen. Kelli Stargel, whose district covers parts of Lake and Polk counties; and Rep. Anthony Sabatini, whose district covers part of Lake County. Rep. Sabatini also introduced them to Reps. Robert “Alex” Andrade and David Smith.
Earlier that day, Florida League of Cities President Leo Longworth and Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey gave welcome remarks at Tallahassee’s City Hall. Guest speakers Courtney Thomas, director of external affairs in the Mayor’s Office; and Diane Williams-Cox, Tallahassee commissioner, also addressed the teens.
Keynote speaker Scott Paine, the Florida League of Cities’ director of leadership development and education, presented on the topic “How Can We Be Heard?” He led the youth in brainstorming obstacles they face to be heard on matters of public concern. Then, they learned how to run an Open Space Meeting – with topics and discussion driven by the teens’ priorities and interests.
“I learned about the inner workings of municipal government, and how the youth can speak out to make an impact on our community,” Clermont Youth Council member Camille Eldredge said.
Participants concluded by sharing their experiences with their peers while reviewing what they accomplished together. Topics included affordable housing, social media and self-image, gun control, recycling and construction. Clermont Youth Council members shared their idea for tiny homes to expand workforce housing with other councils; they previously presented the idea to the Clermont City Council, who is considering it.
“It was a great way to gain different perspectives on the pressing issues our communities face and ways we could find solutions to those problems,” Eldredge said.
The next day, the Florida League of Cities bussed the youth to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University for a tour, followed by a workshop on choosing a major at Florida State University’s Career Center.
“I learned that we don’t have to limit our impact to Clermont,” Clermont Youth Council member Luis Mustafa said. “If many of us youth councils could ban together to try to make the same change in our cities, we could potentially cause a change statewide.”