OV Town Talk: Youth are at the heart of OV’s future
Published on March 22, 2023
Did you know that the name of Oro Valley’s current General Plan, Your Voice, Our Future, was inspired by a high school student? That simple concept—reflecting the voices of those who call Oro Valley home and their ideals for the road ahead—ultimately led to the approval of the 2016 General Plan by more than 70 percent of Oro Valley voters. And now, as the Town embarks on the deliberate process for the next General Plan, I am happy to tell you that our youth are more involved than ever, as evidenced by the work of our very own Youth Advisory Council.
In case you’re not familiar with the Youth Advisory Council, please allow me to provide some historical background.
The Oro Valley Youth Advisory Council was established in 2012 to provide the youth a voice in local government and to channel their passions to enhance our community. A staff person is assigned to support the Youth Advisory Council, and presently Jessica Hynd serves in that capacity. The Youth Advisory Council includes approximately 25 students from Oro Valley’s five area high schools: Ironwood Ridge, Canyon Del Oro, BASIS Oro Valley, Pusch Ridge, and Immaculate Heart. Students are selected through an application process. Two of the of the group’s foundational goals are to better engage the youth of our community, and to bridge the gap between Oro Valley’s youth and the senior population by building relationships through shared experiences.
Over the years, members of the Youth Advisory Council have done everything from visiting senior living centers as part of the Music & Memory Project (helping those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia), to hosting fun and safe events for local students such as “dive-in” movie nights at the Aquatic Center. They’ve met up with the Sun City Pickleball Club to learn about the fastest-growing sport in the country, and they’re hosting a new series of financial literacy workshops for young people this spring. Underlying all these community activities is the desire to learn about local government, actively participate, and to serve the community. To that end, students can attend Town Council meetings in addition to their own Youth Advisory Council meetings to better understand how municipal government works and the ways in which they can get involved. And that brings us back to the General Plan.
Once again, the Youth Advisory Council has been invited to participate in the process to develop a Community Engagement Plan for the 2026 General Plan, which is a state-mandated, ten-year document that sets the values, vision, goals and priorities for Oro Valley’s quality of life. That process began in January with a series of Community Engagement Advisory Group meetings comprising members of Oro Valley Town Council, the various Boards and Commissions members, and—of course—the Youth Advisory Council.
As a participant of the Community Engagement Advisory Group, I have personally witnessed these students' passion, vision and willingness to engage in meaningful conversations with other members of all ages and backgrounds. Similarly, Town staff who are leading this effort have noted that these young people actively participated in discussions, exercises and even volunteered to lead various tasks. They provided key insights and perspectives relative to issues in the community, and they taught us how to best engage with the typically underrepresented youth of Oro Valley. We were all impressed by how articulate and respectful their comments were especially when providing a differing point of view.
It was this experience that inspired me to write an article about our youth. We already believe that Oro Valley is a special place; but seeing this kind of investment of time and energy from our future leaders gives me so much hope for what lies ahead.
These young adults are a breath of fresh air in local government, and I wanted to make sure our community knew about the exciting work they are doing, not only now with current residents, but for future residents as well.
The timing of this article is also ideal, since the Town is currently accepting applications for the 2023/24 Youth Advisory Council, so if you know of an outstanding Oro Valley high school student who would like to be involved in local government, please encourage them to apply. The deadline is March 31. Application details can be found at www.orovalleyyouth.com.
This fall, when we officially kick off the Community Engagement portion of the General Plan process, I hope each of you will consider getting involved. There will be numerous opportunities both online and in person to share your input on what Oro Valley should look like in the years to come. We’ll want to hear from every segment of our amazing community—and that includes our young people! The Oro Valley Youth Advisory Council got the ball rolling, and they need your help to sustain that momentum. I’ll be right there alongside them, and I hope you will too.