Future leaders: Washington City Youth Council

Washington City Youth Council with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 2012 | Utah.gov photo submitted by Wendi Bulkley

WASHINGTON CITY – Each year, the Washington City Youth Council transforms 15 young students into confident community leaders with a recipe for success.

The council is the brainchild of Washington City Councilman Jeff Turek, who had observed similar programs in other parts of Utah and how they benefited their community’s youth. It was officially launched in 2010 as the WCYC and a team of volunteer advisors, led by director Wendi Bulkley, was appointed to recruit the first members.

WCYC’s design is essentially a replica of a standard city government and functions just as a real one might. There is a total of 15 elected positions, plus four adult advisors. Among the many duties of the members are managing the budget, arranging and recording each council meeting, organizing events and projects and managing public relations.

In addition to running their faux government, the council also works closely with the actual Washington City administration. Each teenager is assigned a mentor whose job corresponds with their position on the WCYC as they learn the various processes of governing a city. Some council members are even allowed to attend city meetings and offer their opinion on issues.

An appreciation and understanding of politics must be shared by the council members, not surprising given the program’s origin. Every February, the WCYC journeys to the Utah State Capitol for an educational field trip. While there, they have the rare opportunities to meet and speak with Utah’s representatives, senators and governor, sit in on committee meetings and follow bills that may affect their community.

Another annual tradition is the Lake Powell training retreat, where council members are elected to their positions, arrange their meeting schedule and listen to presentations from their advisors.

Another key value is community spirit and a willingness to serve. The council partners with the Washington City Community Center, Washington County Historical Society and local chapter of the Lions Club to arrange various service projects. Members also participate in events such as the Washington County Fair and Cotton Days, and represent their city in various local parades.

Throughout the coming year, they will assist in restoring the Robert D. Covington Mansion, an 1859-built landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion was recently acquired by Washington City and when renovations are complete, will be open for public viewing as a memorial of Southern Utah’s pioneer era. It is the council’s largest service project to date.

An intense focus on keeping the council running smoothly while balancing studies, athletics and other activities sometimes threatens to leave its members with little room for themselves. Natalee Scoresby, 17, has given some 360 hours to the council and said that while the time commitment seemed overwhelming at first, she now manages to keep a healthy balance between work and play.

Washington City Youth Council members, 2011-12 term, February 2012 | Courtesy of Wendi Bulkley

“I don’t think there are any drawbacks (to serving),” she said. “I’ve learned so much and have become friends with my city mayor because of WCYC. I don’t think many kids my age have that opportunity.”

Scholarship opportunities also abound for council members. The program’s emphasis on leadership community service gives a boost, as does the support of advisors like Carmen Snow. She has been a part of WCYC since its creation and has now stepped up as director while Bulkley is on maternity leave.

“Serving on the council opens a lot of doors,” she said. “We have written many (recommendation) letters and are always looking for scholarships for our (youth).”

Despite the focus on government, Snow said that the WCYC is not grooming future politicians so much as future leaders. The program’s main goals are to inspire confidence in its members as they gain experience and knowledge that will benefit them in all aspects of life.

“The world needs dreamers and doers, but more (importantly) the world needs dreamers that do,” she said. “(This) is a group of exceptional young men and women who want to make a difference. They are the leaders of tomorrow.”

Katie Legg, an 18-year-old Millcreek student, served on the council for three years and is now an advisor. She said through WCYC, she has learned a great deal about leadership, friendship and herself.

“Before the council I was a very shy and self-conscious person, (but) I have come out of my shell and (become) more confident in myself,” she said. “(Applying) is one of the best things you can do. Not only do you get to serve on the council, you (will) make lifelong friends and learn life skills.”

Positions on the WCYC are available to any youth ages 14-18 who attends Pine View, Millcreek or Desert Hills high schools. Applications can be obtained via Washington City’s website, though the council will not be re-electing until January 2013.

In the meantime, WCYC Mayor Ashton Turek encouraged those considering the council to speak with the representatives assigned to each school or an advisor so they can know what to expect. Because the election process is very thorough and only 15 students will receive a position, Turek said that all applicants should give their best effort and be ready for the commitment.

“It’s a lot of time and work, but the benefits are huge,” she said. “I encourage every youth (who wants) to make their community a better place to step up and get involved.”

For more information on the registration process, advisor Carmen Snow can be contacted at [email protected].

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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