Tisdahl meets with ETHS youth council to discuss goals for new year

Audrey Cheng

Members of the first mayor’s youth advisory council of 2012 met promptly at 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday to discuss issues including roller skating, SafeRide for high school students and youth violence.

The meeting, which took place in a small office in Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave., was one of several ETHS students have held with Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and city officials since last summer to address student-specific topics. During their discussion, city officials, five ETHS students and Tisdahl outlined goals for the new year.

To improve the Evanston community, they said, they hope to continue the roller skating program, popular among the old and young, and the mayor’s safety-based summer youth initiative program. The council also considered the creation of a SafeRide program for high school students and proposed creating two vocational programs for graduates.

The advisory council, which formed in the summer, originally aimed to increase student safety.

“We want everyone to know our hotline texting number and for kids to know where their bullet is going before their gun is fired,” said Tisdahl, referring to the emergency phone number the council created following a rising number of shootings in Evanston.

Tisdahl noted that two summers ago, before the council was created, there were six homicides in Evanston involving teenagers. At the beginning of last summer, there was a shooting at McDonald’s involving a young man, but the victim was not severely injured.

“We were worried that it would be a bad summer, so we wanted to create more things for students to do during the summer,” Tisdahl added.

The council also serves as a valuable forum to gauge student input. Tisdahl said without teenage children or grandchildren, she lacks a line of communication to address youth issues.

ETHS junior Josh Easington founded the council with Tisdahl last summer.

“I wanted to volunteer for the city and help out my peers, so this was the best way I saw it,” Easington said. “Picking up trash or doing any other volunteer opportunities are important, but I feel like I could make the most difference doing this.”

Tisdahl said one of her current goals is to increase public awareness of the council’s existence.

“We want to let everyone know what we are doing for our teenagers, and we want input from teenagers to whether the things that we are providing are working well or not,” Tisdahl said.

ETHS junior Desmond Cleland said he also is striving to increase the safety of students through the council.

“I think just making kids feel safe in the community and having a good amount of programs that kids can be involved in is important,” Cleland said.

Cleland added he believes the council’s greatest success last year was the decriminalization of possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana, revising the policy for offenders from jail time to a fine.

“One reason that lots of people can’t get jobs, particularly African-American males, is that they have records and some of their records are for things like having small amounts of marijuana,” Tisdahl said. “It was my strong feeling that it wasn’t something that could keep you from a getting a job for the rest of your life.”

Joe McRae, assistant to the city manager, said the mayor’s youth advisory council has been effective so far.

“I think it’s been successful to give us a pipeline to the target group and demographic and allows us to adjust to address their needs,” McRae said.

The council’s next meeting will be sometime in March, Tisdahl said.

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