by We’Ced Youth Media
Editor’s Note: As the Merced City Council deliberates on the budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Building Healthy Communities has joined forces with community partners to advocate for the prioritization of youth as demonstrated by city funds. The main asks to the City Council have been the assigning of 3% of the discretionary funds to go towards the Youth Services division of the Parks & Recreation Department, an area that has been cut drastically in recent years, and the establishment of a Youth Commission. In support of the advocacy effort, We’Ced drafted Letters To The Editor explain in their own words why they felt Merced should invest in it’s youth.
Lisa Vasquez, 17
As a younger child, I was very involved with my nearby parks and rec, I remember having so much fun and feeling like I had endless possibilities. I remember it slowly started to fade away, one thing would be gone and then another.
I learned that the part of the city’s discretionary fund that has been funding youth services has been cut drastically over the past several years. I believe that these cuts are the reason why these programs and activities have been cut. I’m aware that BHC and other youth-oriented groups have been advocating for 3% of the city’s discretionary fund to permanently go to youth services, excluding salaries. Since 45% of Merced is under 25, it is important that these youth have programs that offer opportunities to gain skills, get job experience, get involved with the community and feel like they have a purpose.
Kalvin Sae Lee, 17
My name is Kalvin Saelee and I am a student at Yosemite High School. In my opinion we should put at least 3% of the city’s discretionary funds towards youth services, not including salaries. Why? Because I am a young man who is still finding himself but I’m now on the right path to being successful, or at least a decent human being. I can think TCE and our local BHC for that because they support a youth media group I currently write for called We’Ced Youth Media. We’Ced helped me in a way I wouldn’t be able to find by myself. I was an angry little boy and I won’t go into detail about myself but I was a trouble maker. Through We’Ced I interviewed a counselor and now her and I are close and I see her often. She has helped me with my anger and many other things such as working towards my dream of being a chef. With more youth services more troubled teens could walk the right path into adulthood. 13.6% of Merced’s youth are disconnected and with more youth services i’m 100% that number will go down.
Lisbeth Vazquez, 16
According to the 2012 results of how many people between the ages of 16-19 did not have a job or go to school, 13.6% of Merced County’s young people didn’t have a job or were enrolled in school. This is the highest of any county in the state. I think that is greatly affected by the way the city spends its funds. If 3% of the city’s discretionary budget were allocated to youth services then there would be more people involved with things in the community?
For example, We’Ced is a youth group and we get together and learn about the community as well as inform them. If we had more groups similar to this then this would probably help people get on the right track. Some people might argue that we shouldn’t have as much because we are just youth, but we are now youth but we want to become someone who will be productive to society. I do not mean productive as in someone who necessarily has to go out and be like a doctor, but someone that can contribute to the community and make it safe.
Ana Llimet, 17
In my years of living in Merced I’ve seen its rate of homeless, gangs and unemployment go up. I think the city council should give 3% of its discretionary funds to youth services. It will keep them out of the streets and away from being detrimental and also hopefully lower our rates of homeless, gangs and unemployment by raising our next generation with more opportunities and make them feel like they have a purpose in their community. Invest in the future of Merced and give our youth 3%!
Emily Castrigno, 17
Youth services are an essential part of creating strong leaders for the future. We as youth are the future. Designating 3% of our cities’ discretionary budget is a wise investment, not just for the immediate positive effects it could have on kids today but the long term effects of promoting intelligence and leadership in youth for years to come. The city council needs to seriously consider this proposal. We as the leaders of the future need to be taken seriously.