Submitted by Alex Nay
Now, more than ever, with declining youth mental health as a subject of local and national conversation, youth need to be involved in being part of the solution.
The City of Reno Youth City Council states in its mission statement that it is “to provide youth ages 14-18 with active, positive, and safe recreational opportunities to increase their quality of life.” The council has been open and active for decades; in fact, my mother served under Mayor Sferrazza, and my cousin under Mayor Schieve. Advocacy in our community is a family tradition.
I applied for Youth City Council on December 7, 2020 (as a high school freshman) due to several vacancies available. I applied during the height of the pandemic, driven to be part of the solution for adolescents in my community.
In February of 2021, I reached out to Council member Devon Reese, YCC’s council liaison, regarding my application status. I was told they had not met for a year and to submit a resume and a letter of interest which I again submitted through their online portal.
I reached out again to Councilman Reese in June of 2021 – then a sophomore – and was referred to city staff who referred me to another city staff. This process took until September.
In September, I met virtually with the city staff member I was referred to. The interview went great; the staff was kind, considerate, and answered all my questions. He went on to tell me that it would be beneficial for me to recruit members myself. However, no forward progress was made in getting the council restarted.
After my attempts at recruiting, I reached out again in February 2022. I stated that I was beginning to lose faith that the city cares about youth, and I inquired about the barriers to continuing the YCC. Council member Reese said, “we are back on track and it looks like YCC will be restarted soon.”
Immediately after that, I received a snarky email from the city staff, where the staff member was unhinged and angry. He stated “if you send me applications from 6 of your friends, I’d be happy to start YCC ASAP. Until then, my hands are tied.”
Seriously? A city staff member is placing the burden of recruiting on a high school student in a competitive medical academy?
It is now October 2022. I am a junior in high school, and it has been almost two years since I applied. While many boards and commissions have continued to meet uninterrupted, the YCC has come to a complete halt.
The public deserves to know that the city continues to leave our youth without resources and without a voice – as youth mental health declines rapidly in conjunction with record overdoses, suicide and self-harm. I have heard the message loud and clear: the city does not care about its youth enough to take action.
About Youth City Council
The Reno Youth City Council is a group of youth ranging from ages 14-18 who plan events and activities for the youth in Reno and provide input to the Reno City Council regarding youth issues that relate to the City of Reno. The council requires nine members to operate, including four officer positions elected from within council membership. Applications can be submitted online.
Alex Nay is a 16-year-old high school junior at the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology in the Medical Academy. They are a lifelong citizen of Reno and who takes great care to get involved in political and community events. They are dedicated to authenticity, social justice and reform within the community.
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