Applications to join the Saline Youth Council have plummeted this year, prompting the city to delay activities until at least January.
The Saline Youth Council is a city commission composed of 13 high school students. The group’s mission is to make Saline a better place for teens and to serve as a conduit between city government and youth.
In recent years, the youth council has had 35 to 50 kids participating, between the members of the commission and the liaisons. But this year, the group has received only eight applications from area teens according to Carla Scruggs, Parks and Recreation Director and staff liaison to the council.
“For the first time, we’ve not been able to get to a quorum,” Scruggs told city council Monday.
Scruggs recommended the city cease youth council activities and spend a couple of months recruiting, recommencing in January. Scruggs attributed low interest to students’ busy schedules. Earlier this year, homecoming float building activities were nearly canceled for the same reason.
“It’s the first time we’ve been in this situation,” Scruggs said. “We need to get kids talking about it.”
Heidi McClelland is Saline City Council’s liaison to the youth council. She was perplexed by the sudden drop in interest after two years of very active and engaged councils.
“I don’t if was the leadership, but it was very peer driven and very intense. There were a lot of political science kids,” McClelland said.
Councillor Janet Dillon said she wondered if the city could offer more to participating youth. She suggested the city was relying on the council too much for volunteering instead of providing experiences to broaden their horizons. Youth Councl members often volunteer at Saline Recreation events.
“It seems like it’s become a service club, and feeding our need for free labor,” Dillon said.
She said when she attends Michigan Municipal League events, there are break out sessions for youth council members. Dillon said she’d like to see students get opportunities to take classes that might help them learn more about how to find roles in government.
McClelland suggested youth council have more flexible schedules to fit the needs of students.
Councillor Christen Mitchell said she’d like to work with the Saline Youth Council to help maintain and grow the program.
Saline Youth Council was formed in 2002. The council typically met at 5:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in the city council chambers during the school year.
All students who are interested in helping out in the community are encouraged to apply to become a member. Contact Jody Roberts at Saline Rec Center at (734) 429-3502, ext. 2505 or [email protected] for more information.