Recently, the Fresno City Council agreed to provide $50,000 a year to the Youth Leadership Institute to staff and manage the Fresno Youth Commission, which will provide input to the mayor and council on issues that are important to residents like me – Fresno’s youth.
This is a great headline, but let’s dig a little deeper. A recent article in The Fresno Bee stated that council members Esmeralda Soria and Oliver Baines pushed for the creation of the commission. This is true. Both council members played a tremendous part, and they worked with youths to make it happen. The article never mentioned the role that youths played in this process, which really proves the point of why we need this commission.
The power of young voices in Fresno is greatly overlooked, and it leads me to believe that there are many young voices going unheard in our community. I also feel some organizations and the city are working to take some action on welcoming more young people and our opinions.
As a member of Fresno Boys and Men of Color, I’ve seen firsthand some of the progress, but we all have a long way to go. Fresno Boys and Men of Color is about improving the lives of young men of color in Fresno: better health for young men, better education for young men and safer neighborhoods.
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To achieve these goals, our group has spent countless hours researching, developing and executing different methods of youth advocacy in our city. The Youth Commission is just one piece.
My brothers and I also worked with the Fresno Police Department and Chief Jerry Dyer to develop the Police Chief’s Youth Advisory Council. The council is similar to the commission, but instead of working with the council, young people will advise the chief about how to improve relationships between the department and young men of color in our city.
Fresno Boys and Men of Color also held a youth-based park forum last summer to address the parks crisis in our city. The lack of parks, particularly in south and west Fresno, is a health issue that needs to be fixed.
And I am personally honored to serve on the first ever ABC30 Youth Advisory Council, which will allow me and others to really have an impact on the stories that are told about us in the media. I take this responsibility seriously because I have a chance to represent youths like me. They may not all serve on this council, but I feel they are beside me every step of the way.
The bottom line is this: Members of Fresno Boys and Men of Color have made our voices heard in City Hall, Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and we will continue to do so. We will always stress the importance and power of young voices and how our ideas can bring change to our community.
I am excited for the future of the Fresno Youth Commission, the ABC30 council and the police chief’s advisory group. It is time that youths have the opportunity to really show our city what we can do. We know that it takes more than words to make change; it’s time for action.
And our actions will prove that it doesn’t matter how old you are, your opinions and ideas are always welcome in Fresno.
Ricky Reyna of Fresno is 20.