SJC Youth Advisory Board Creates A Link to Politics for Teens

The+Youth+Advisory+Board+members+paint+faces+at+the+SJHHS+club+Project+SOS%27s+Walk+for+Wellness+in+February+2019.+The+Youth+Advisory+Board+often+helps+run+events+in+San+Juan+Capistrano+by+providing+services+like+face+painting.+

Courtesy of Project SOS

The Youth Advisory Board members paint faces at the SJHHS club Project SOS's Walk for Wellness in February 2019. The Youth Advisory Board often helps run events in San Juan Capistrano by providing services like face painting.

Warren Unzueta, Staff Writer

The Youth Advisory Board of San Juan Capistrano, a commission of the city, provides high school students with the opportunity to collaborate with the City Council and bring forward issues related to teenagers in the community. 

The Board meets every second Monday of the month in the City Council Chambers in order to discuss topics relevant to San Juan Capistrano teens and plan events for the city. Meetings are held in the same format as City Council meetings in order to replicate the procedures of a governmental conference. 

To join, a student must be a resident of San Juan Capistrano and an application with an interview is required. Currently, ten Board members are SJHHS students and the group is led by senior Ella Friess, who has been a member for 4 years. 

In recent years, the Board has taken the lead in the effort to get a skatepark constructed at the sports park adjacent to Marco Forster Middle School and the Boys and Girls Club. 

“The Board first brought the idea to the city’s attention because skating is a fundamental part of a lot of kids’ lives as they grow up and San Juan lacked any location that could facilitate such an activity,” said Friess.

Not many other people can say they have been a part of a commission of their city, one of the core groups that run the town,”

— Ella Friess

Planning for the skatepark is currently out of the Board’s oversight and is now under the supervision of the City Council for negotiation and funding, although the Board remains active in maintaining community support.

The Board is also present at numerous events put on by the city including the Christmas Tree Lighting, Easter Extravaganza, Swallows Day, and Summer Nites Concerts. This year, the Board also helped out at the SJHHS SOS Club’s Walk for Wellness to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. At the events, members set up a booth and either sell food or provide face-painting services for children in attendance.

“The money raised during these events goes back to the Youth, usually in the form of our Christmas Gift Giving event where we buy about 20 elementary school students gifts for Christmas. We, as a group, go buy these gifts at Target and wrap them ourselves,” said junior Esmeralda Chavez. 

Teens are encouraged to apply for a position on the Board as it provides a unique look into how municipal governments function and serves as a special volunteering opportunity. 

“Not many other people can say they have been a part of a commission of their city, one of the core groups that run the town, and have helped their community through it,” said Friess. “More importantly, it has taught me how to be a leader in a more professional, adult setting as well as how legitimate businesses and organizations work.”