Photos: Marci Lopez for The kNOw Youth Media
by We’Ced Youth Media
Nearly 100 people gathered at Tenaya Middle School on the evening of October 22nd for a city council candidate forum. The youth-led forum, which was hosted by local organizations We’Ced Youth Media and Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Merced, was the first of its kind in this city.
Nine of the ten city council candidates slated to appear on the November 5th ballot, with the exception of Chris Ramirez, were on hand to answer questions posed by a panel of youth moderators, on issues of importance to young community members.
Planning for the forum took place over two months, and consisted of young people and adult allies conducting a survey to help inform the questions that were to be asked at the event. Nearly 500 young people responded to the five-question survey, the purpose of which was to get a sense of what the most important issues facing young people are in Merced, and how they relate to city government. The survey found that youth in Merced feel disconnected to their local government, and see youth jobs and “finding things to do” in Merced as the two most pressing local issues affecting them.
[pullquote_left]The survey found that youth in Merced feel disconnected to their local government, and see youth jobs and “finding things to do” in Merced as the two most pressing local issues affecting them.[/pullquote_left]
In what could be described as a game-like format, candidates were asked to pick questions from three categories—“About You,” “Growth,” and “Youth Life.”
There were similarities in the candidate responses. All agreed that jobs were integral for the development of Merced’s youth. Candidate Jana Mowrer and Mayor Stan Thurston both said that mentoring programs and internships could be important ways to get youth ready for jobs. Kevin Blake and Michael Belluomini made a point to say that Merced also needs industry to create more jobs that youth can fill.