Soledad Youth Council founders Ximena Mandujano, Laura Rivera, Amber Solorio, Ivan Ibarra (advisor), Celia Solorio (advisor) Diana Mendoza, Aaron Arriaga, and Bryana Harrell
“The future is now and Soledad has a huge opportunity in continuing to invest in our youth. We, the youth of Soledad, are committed to empowering ourselves through a Soledad Youth Council that will provide leadership development, while actively engaging us in our community government by being apart of the decision making process and creating policies that affect our youth and community.”
— Soledad Youth Council purpose statement
By Amber Solorio
For the past few months, eight active Soledad High School students have come together and discussed the idea of a youth council in our city of Soledad. I am happy to say that after these few months our council is taking the right steps to becoming official.
During this short time, we have already engaged with our community, participated in several events, taken action and even held events such as our youth forum.
Our youth forum was held to help motivate and empower students to use their voices. The forum switched traditional roles; rather than listening to adults, students were asked to speak and adults were asked to listen to the students’ perspectives and ideas to reform Soledad.
The Soledad Youth Council is the beginning of the future and will go down in our history. I believe that it is very important to involve youth in our community because we are the future community leaders, school board members, and city council members of our city. Youth have much potential, and this opportunity will provide many great new opportunities.
We are very grateful to have full support for our City Council, which recently proposed spending $10,000 for leadership training for Youth Council members.
With the help of this past year’s Gonzalez Youth Council commissioners, Cindy Aguilar and Nayeli Gomez, we were able to get our council up and running.
In an interview, Gomez talked about the events that the youth commissioners and the youth council were able to bring to their city. Gomez says that this past year the Gonzalez Youth Council worked toward their idea of a Teen Innovation Center.
The Teen Innovation Center would offer resources that are lacking in the school. Gomez says that an architect helped them this past year with the design and the city gave them their full support and support in funding.
“Starting the conversation and the fact that is youth led it pretty unique to Gonzalez,” Gomez says. “Many people think Gonzalez is a small town and don’t really do much but in reality we really do care about our town and big things are happening here.”
Gomez says the youth council also participated in “National Night Out,” and “No Straw November”. “National Night Out” is an event that helps the community become more familiar with their police department. “No Straw November” is brings awareness to the many straws that are only used once and being thrown away in one month.
'We get connected with many community leaders and the fact that they actually listen to you ... is really amazing.'
Gomez says, “When I was in the youth council it opened up all sorts of opportunities that I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. The youth council also is a great networking opportunity. We get connected with many community leaders and the fact that they actually listen to you, are impressed by you, and want to help you with what are advocating for is really amazing.’’
When asked if she thinks the Soledad Youth Council can make the same impact the Gonzalez Youth Council is making, Gomez responds enthusiastically. “Of course! I’ve met you all and all of you are very determined. I feel that everyone is genuine and passionate about it. I think you have a very good foundation.”
Gomez also says that she believes “one of the biggest aspects of the success that the Gonzalez Youth Council has had has been having the support from the adult allies. If you all can have pretty good stable adult allies I am positive that you all can be as successful for even more than the Gonzalez Youth Council.”
Ximena Mandujano, an incoming junior at Soledad High School and a founder of the Soledad Youth Council, says the council allows the voices of youth to be heard in that community. “I believe that the voices of our youth should be heard because they are also a part of our community,” she says. “I wanted to start a youth council in our city because an opportunity like this has never been seen in Soledad. Also, I’ve noticed that our youth are not involved in our school and in our community, so through the council, I could encourage all the youth to share their ideas and to be a part of something big.”
Mandujano also talks about the new park design that the youth council has also been working on with the city. “The city council has trusted to be a part of the new park design, never in my 16 years would I have imagined myself planning a park for the city I love,” she says.
Laura Rivera is an incoming senior at Soledad High School and also a founder of the Soledad Youth Council, says she joined the youth council to “support and encourage the younger crowd to stand up for what they believe in and make a positive change they wish to see in our community. Also, because as a low-income, migrant, first-generation student I want to help out the people in my community who might not be aware of how they can contribute. I wish for them to see someone who looks like them and can relate to. My experience has been wonderful! In our short time as a youth council we have been able to accomplish amazing things which I am very proud of, I cannot wait for what the future holds for us.”
Rivera also talks about the new park design for the city of Soledad: “My favorite event so far is definitely all meetings in which we contributed ideas to a new park being built. I always felt included and taken seriously when contributing ideas, especially when we saw the final draft of what they park will look like. I now know that my voice and opinion matters to my community.”
The Soledad Youth Council will bring the change we have been needing in our community. The Soledad Youth Council is the start of something big and by providing different perspectives we will be able to work together as a community.
Amber Solorio is an incoming junior at Soledad High School and one of eight founders of the Soledad Youth Council.
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