‘We get to contribute to the community’: Hurricane Youth Council members learn from the pros

The primary ballot for Hurricane City Council has six candidates, Hurricane, Utah, July 16, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold St. George News

HURRICANE — Hurricane City Council member Nanette Billings brought back the Hurricane Youth Council a little over a year ago.

(L to R): Hurricane Youth Council members Patti Calder (leader), Mattie Dotson, Susi Jiles, Cassie Daugherty (leader), Russell Smith, Kelly Dutton and Hurricane City Council Member Nanette Billings at a meeting, Hurricane, Utah, June 3, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

The council is formed by local teenage school students who want to learn about the City Council, serve their community and help beautify Hurricane.

“I started the Youth Council last year after we hadn’t had one for several years,” Billings said. “I felt that it was important to develop our youth leaders here.”

As previously reported by St. George News, Billings reformed the Youth Council shortly before the pandemic struck, then introduced the council to the Hurricane City Council.

The current Youth Council has two adult leaders: Hurricane residents Patti Calder and Cassie Daugherty. 

Daugherty said Billings asked her to get involved when she saw the need for a Youth Council. 

“We’d like to keep the program growing,” she said. “Right now we have 10 students involved and we’d like to double that next year. We want to keep the kids civically minded.”

Daugherty said the Youth Council meets every Monday night and conducts the meeting just like a City Council meeting. There’s an agenda and a recorder takes the minutes. There’s an acting mayor and council members debate Hurricane issues.

“Every two months we rotate and the roles change, so everyone gets to try different jobs,” Daugherty said. “They get to meet with all the City Council members and learn how they run the meetings in the democratic process.” 

Billings explained that the Youth Council is part of the SAVE the Youth Initiative. The letters stand for Service, Activities, Visit (as in visit all the different departments in city government) and Educate. 

“They are learning about our Constitution,” Billings said, “and the rights that they have as student leaders and the rights that we have as a city.”

Billings listed the students who are part of the Youth Council this year: Jack Butler, Breck Warr, Kelly Dutton, Ashton Daugherty, Russell Smith, Susi Jiles, Eliza Dansie, Mattie Dotson and Patti Bancroft.

Susi Jiles, a sophomore at Hurricane High School, talked about why she wanted to be part of the Youth Council.

“I wanted to do it to be a part of something that could benefit the city,” Jiles said. “We get to contribute to the community through service, and it’s fun to be a part of a wonderful group of people who want to beautify the city and do service projects.”

Service projects the council has participated in include cleaning up trash at the Desert Tortoise Reserve, cleaning up flowers after Memorial Day, painting curbs and serving a gratitude dinner to all of the teachers at the elementary school.

“We’re trying to expand our service projects to do one per month,” Jiles said.

Jiles is the recorder on the Youth Council. She said it was a real learning experience to attend the City Council meeting on Thursday.

“It was fun to be in the room where there’s so much power,” Jiles said. “It was really cool to see the power and the decisions that they can make.”

Russell Smith, a sophomore at Hurricane High School, described himself as being really into politics and said he joined the Youth Council to participate in the process.

“I have a lot of questions, and I wanted to see how the city operated,” Smith said. “I wanted to make it so the youth had input.”

Smith is currently the acting mayor in the council. The Youth Council’s service projects offer Smith a hands-on opportunity to help the community.

“You can talk and write on a piece of paper, but when you’re doing the projects, you’re actually there,” Smith said. “It’s a physical thing and it feels good after you do it, but when you’re there you can see the change you’re making in real time, right before your eyes.” 

At the Thursday meeting the Youth Council members introduced themselves to the City Council, and the adult leaders were impressed with the next generation.

Billings said input from the youth is a crucial element to a thriving community.

“Youth input is so important to be able to help the youth grow up and feel like they have a voice, and feel like they’re represented and part of the community,” Billings said. “It’s just awesome to work with them.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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