Youth council makes big and helpful impact on the communityNov 07, 2023 09:29AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
Draper City Mayor’s Youth councilmembers (L-R) Audrey Johanson, Abby Holland, Abby Larson and Lily Henstrom helped at this year’s International Arts & Crafts Festival. The council gives local high school students opportunities for community service. (Courtesy Abby Holland)
The Draper City Mayor’s Youth Council (DCMYC) is made up of high school students in Draper looking to make a difference in their community. Draper has the largest youth council in the state, and it grew to 108 members this year. The entire council was sworn in at Draper City Hall on Sept. 12.
“They do so many things that make it possible for us to do the community events that we do…without them, we couldn’t do it. Our goal is that they leave this program having done service and knowing how government works. It’s a fantastic group of young people,” Mayor Troy Walker said.
The group performs a variety of service projects throughout the year mixed with civics lessons. Each participant must log a required number of service hours to be eligible for membership. They meet monthly and attend legislative day at the capitol once each year to learn about government while also meeting members of other youth councils from across the state. For the youth, it’s an organized opportunity to help in their community while building their resumes for college applications and building friendships along the way.
CCHS senior Abby Holland is this year’s Youth Mayor. Holland has been a part of the youth council all four years of high school. She joined for the community service opportunity. Outside of youth council, she also participates in policy debate for the CCHS Debate team. She plans to study wildlife biology in college. Her leadership experience from DCMYC combined with her debate skills and her interest in wildlife biology have her hoping to be involved in public policy in the future. “The older I get, the more I learn about the challenges the environment is facing. I want to work in conservation and environmental justice. Both the youth council and debate have inspired me to go the public policy route. Debate has taught me how to advocate for myself and the causes I believe in,” she said.
Holland’s favorite events to help with are the Draper Days Children’s Bike Parade, because of the excitement of the little kids, and the International Arts & Crafts Festival. “Last year, I spent my time helping one of the henna artists. It was great to learn about a different art form and her life and her story,” Holland said.
Holland estimates the council has nearly doubled in size since she first became involved and she credits the adult advisors for the success and size of the program. “We have a lot of amazing advisors who are really invested in the program. They put so much time and effort into making it a really good experience, so everyone wants to come back and get their friends involved,” Holland said.
Cécily Johnson, a freshman at Leadership Academy of Utah, is in her first year on the council. “It’s cool to talk to other students about their different schools. I feel like the more people I get to know that live in Draper, the more I love this city because I know about the people,” Johnson said.
CCHS freshman Graham Jones heard about DCMYC from his mom and thought it sounded like a good opportunity. “I feel service is a way to forget yourself and think of positive things,” Jones said. Thus far, his favorite thing has been volunteering with little kids. He was recently asked to do face painting at an event and he was nervous because he’d never done it before. “The kids were just grateful and happy to be given the opportunity to get their face painted,” Jones said.
He also enjoyed the group’s project of cleaning up graves at Draper’s cemetery. “It was nice to see some graves that had been buried under the grass revealed and seen again. Some of them were really old, and it was neat to see how long these graves have been there,” Jones said.
Ayush Pratham, a CCHS junior, is in his first year on the council after moving to Draper from Riverton. “I love the activities we’re doing and the social impact we have on the community. I think it’s amazing to have more than 100 kids get super involved,” he said. Pratham’s favorite service activity thus far was the city’s marathon. “We did have to wake up early, but it was worth it to encourage the runners. I was standing close to the finish line so I got to keep pushing the runners and encouraging them,” he said.
CCHS sophomore Jefferson Davis thinks the DCMYC gives youth an opportunity for involvement that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. He enjoyed the group’s opening activity where they got to meet the other youth they’d be working with in the coming year, and he especially enjoyed helping at the city’s marathon. “It was fun to see the sunrise when we went up there, to see all the runners going past, and to encourage them,” Davis said.
Youth Mayor Holland summarized her main takeaway from her four years of involvement with the DCMYC.
“I’ve learned the value of coming together as a group to work on projects because there are a lot of city events that require large numbers of volunteers,” she said. “Sometimes it seems like you’re doing small actions, but once you get the whole youth council out there, it’s really cool to see impact when people come together to do service.” λ