Three Lexington-Richland School District Five students have been selected to serve on the first-ever City of Columbia Youth Commission.
The City of Columbia Youth Commission is a program for local students to provide leadership and improve services for youth in the City of Columbia. The group of young leaders will work to bridge the gap between adults and youth, fostering a greater sense of unity, communication and partnership throughout the city. One youth commissioner is elected from each city district, with three at-large representatives from Richland County and two at-large representatives from Lexington County. There will be a total of nine people on the Youth Commission.
All 14-18-year-olds in Richland and Lexington counties were eligible voters. Youth commissioners campaigned to voters just as an adult candidate for elected office does.
Hayden Cohen (Spring Hill High) will represent District One, Savannah Folding (Irmo High) will represent Lexington County, and Shiyana Guilbert (Irmo High) will represent Richland County.
Hayden Cohen said she was inspired to campaign because she wants to help be a part of bringing positive change to the community.
“Youth voices can be powerful, and I really want to contribute my voice to this small community,” Cohen said. “With this opportunity, I feel like I can learn how to use my voice so that I understand how to make a difference.”
Savannah Folding decided to run for the Youth Commission because she wants to try something new and wants her voice to be heard.
“I hope to grow as a person and become more social. I hope to help my fellow students have a voice in the community,” Folding said. “I plan to represent them, take in their opinions and listen to everyone.”
Shiyana Guilbert said she sees this opportunity as a way to give her opinion on issues that students face in Columbia.
“I hope this provides a way for me to connect with other students and be able to talk with adults about our issues and ways we can improve life in Columbia,” Guilbert said.
Each youth commissioner will serve a one-year term. Members of the Columbia Youth Commission are provided an opportunity to talk directly with members of City Council, key senior staff within the City of Columbia and community leaders that work directly in areas that are critical to the community’s quality of life.
Their roles and responsibilities will include: Commenting on legislation and policies that impact youth, creating public service programs that improve the lives of youth, monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of youth programs and policies, partnering with other youth organizations on shared issues, and preparing peers for leadership roles, postsecondary education and career.
“This is a great opportunity for our three School District Five students that were selected by their peers,” said School District Five Chief Instructional Officer Michael Guliano. “It is important for our youth to be involved in their local government and this opportunity will allow them to learn about the process and help create policy that impacts the community as a whole.”