The Iron County Youth Leadership Council is made up of youth who serve on the Iron County Board of Supervisors and sit on several committees. The primary purpose of the Council is to provide youth with an opportunity to learn more about their local government. Since April, when Covid-19 required certain restrictions across Extension programming, youth have been asked not to attend the county board meetings due to the risk and the subsequent desire of the board to keep the size of the meetings smaller. Around the same time, we began to see civil unrest in communities around the country and Youth Development Educator, Neil Klemme and Community Development Educator, Amy Nosal discussed the opportunity to engage the Council in addressing the issue locally.
Klemme contacted the youth and asked if they would be interested in discussing possible opportunities to encourage community action. At the same time a local non-profit organization called NICER-Northern Iron County Engaged Residents was also beginning to have similar conversations. NICER’s mission is to create public events and engage in initiatives that create a welcoming community for all northern Iron County residents. Having already established relationships with members of NICER, Klemme and Nosal invited them in the conversations being had with the youth on the Council.
“We decided to set up weekly Zoom meetings for the youth and create a forum for the Council to participate in safe conversations about diversity and inclusion and formulate a plan to address the issues locally”, Klemme said. From these conversations it was decided to try to write a resolution that could get passed by the Board of Supervisors, providing county leadership the opportunity to support the efforts of our youth and community members. For 5 weeks the youth met to talk through the issue and begin to develop a statement and begin to get their thoughts out. “It was important to let the youth talk about the issue before bringing in adult partners from NICER” Klemme said, “I wanted to make sure they were heard and not overshadowed or intimidated to speak because there were adults in the room (on the Zoom).” The youth worked to develop and outline for what later became the “Statement of Integrity and Respect.”
After 5 weeks, members of NICER became involved to help the youth develop the wording and overall structure of the statement. The total process took 2 months, meeting every Thursday night. The two weeks leading up to the County Board meeting, the members of this team worked to secure support from various community organizations. These included Mercer School District, the Iron County Sheriff’s Department, The Hurley Police Department, and the Iron County Health Department among others (please see the letter of support for the entire list of supporters). Senator Janet Bewley, and Assembly Woman Beth Meyers submitted a letter of support as well.
“There was a lot of great discussion and consideration of what we were seeing on social media and reading locally that lead to the final draft of the statement,” Nosal explained. Youth talked about posts they found helpful and otherwise on the internet, and together the youth and adults reviewed statements created by neighboring communities in the area. “It was important in our process that everyone involved remembered what we were trying to accomplish – to build unity and understanding in community – and that was key to crafting language in the statement that everyone could stand behind with pride,” said Nosal.
Nosal and Klemme thank the Iron County Board of Supervisors for their continued support of the youth here in Iron County and for passing the Statement of Integrity and Respect. This demonstrates strong leadership and a desire to create a welcoming and including Iron County. The Iron County Youth Leadership Council made it clear they believe education is primary driver for positive community change and Extension Iron County will be excited to co-create more community programming that serves that aim.
For more information about the Iron County Youth Leadership Council, please contact Extension Iron County 4-H Youth Development Educator, Neil Klemme at firstname.lastname@example.org.