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Municipal News

By Lois Thomson

"It's a new thing, we've never done anything like this before," said Monessen Mayor Matt Shorraw. "It" is the seven-member Monessen Youth and Young Citizens Board being established by the city.

Youth_Board
Monessen Mayor Matt Shorraw stands with members of the city's newly formed Youth and Young Citizens Board: Teresa Seh, Julian Naphier, David Noel, Missy Barber, Marsha Adams, and Joe Brandsma. Not pictured is Zalendria Hardison

Shorraw said that responses to a youth survey issued by Pennsylvania biennially historically indicate there's a disconnect between the community and the young people, and "This could serve as a way to get the youth more engaged in the community."

The Board will comprise two youth members, two educators, two young adults, and one at-large member. All must be residents of Monessen, except an educator, who may be familiar with the city and has devoted time to it either in their career or through volunteer work. The youth members must be a junior or senior at Monessen High School or a K-12 program. The at-large member should be a resident for at least one year, and have recently or currently worked with youth.

The Board's aim is to ensure that all Monessen young people have the opportunity to have basic needs met, such as to feel safe and be cared for, and to be able to build skills that allow them to contribute to society. Shorraw envisions the Board being a way for the youth to see how city government works and how boards function, with the adult members serving as mentors and guides. In turn, he hopes the students' peers will see them in leadership roles and want to learn more, with the youth on the board then also operating as mentors.

The inaugural members are students David Noel and Zalendria Hardison; educators Teresa Seh and Marsha Adams; young adults Joe Brandsma and Julian Naphier; and at-large resident Missy Barber. Shorraw admitted it took time to fill the positions "because with a board like this, it was so specific that you had to find people that fit those criteria." However, he added, "The first group of members will have the opportunity to forge their own way into the guidelines of the ordinance, so that should be exciting for them."

The ordinance was required to be read twice, and Shorraw said council approved it unanimously both times. "So I think they see a need to engage the youth. We've been trying to figure out how to get people to move here; but we need to get the current people to stay, and that includes the youth. We want to try to engage them in their communities and keep them here."

The Board has been sworn in, and meetings, which will be open to the public, will be advertised.

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