Engaging young people in civic responsibility must be a priority
Submitted by State Rep. Cindy Acree, R-Aurora -
Supporting our students and helping them prepare for their future as leaders in our communities continues to be a top priority for me. I am pleased to continue my service on the Colorado Youth Advisory Council for a second two-year term.
The Colorado Youth Advisory Council consists of 44 members, including 40 voting members ranging in age from 14 to 19 and four non-voting members of Colorado State Legislature. The Council is charged with examining, evaluating and discussing issues, interests and needs affecting Colorado youth and making recommendations to elected officials regarding those issues.
It is critical that we engage our students early in the policy process so that they experience how they are able to impact their own futures through education and preparation. The Colorado Youth Advisory Council provides an excellent opportunity to foster this civic engagement.
Turning 18 and becoming eligible to vote comes with significant responsibilities which must be placed with background and in context for our next generation of leaders. Civic responsibility must be taught early, so that our youth have the proper tools and education to be active and informed citizens.
The 2010 Nations Report Card for the subject of civics showed gains being made in civics education among fourth graders, but not in the eighth or 12th grades and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that only about three-quarters of students scored at the basic or above levels of achievement. During the 12th grade less than two-thirds of students scored at the basic level for the NAEP test. Seeing the drop-off at 12th grade is concerning as that is right just around the time students are becoming eligible to vote for the first time. We can do better than this and we must do better for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
The Colorado Youth Advisory Council gives young leaders an important view in creating policies and making recommendations to legislators on issues that affect them. There are many policy issues that directly affect youth; bullying, peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse in schools are things that teenagers deal with on a regular basis. Helping these student leaders develop recommendations to address these problems is rewarding to see.
The Colorado Youth Advisory Council gives our student leaders direct experience in making recommendations to legislators and participating in the policy process as it happens. This engages our youth for active citizenship.
It has been exciting and rewarding to see these students grow into leadership roles and become remarkable advocates for students their age. I am excited and honored to be able to continue to help guide Colorado students into a lifelong engagement in the political process – one of the great benefits and responsibilities of living in our great country.
State Representative Cindy Acree, R-Aurora, is chair of the Legislative Audit Committee and vice chair of the House Health and Environment Committee. She is also a small business owner and mother of three.