The City of Elizabeth is in the process of creating their 10-year Master Plan. Groundwork Elizabeth will provide opportunities for youth voices to coordinate policy proposals to mitigate the effects of this pandemic and prepare the community for probable similar experiences, while educating them about the positive difference that civic actions can make.
Each week the Youth Leaders, advisor, and Director for the program meet to review progress to date for the group and the goals for the program, to prepare metrics, and to make adjustments according to work to date. Our focus for learning this week was in speaking to Elizabeth government leaders, first, Krishna Garlic, the Director of Health and Human Services for the City, and then the Mayor for the City, Chris Bollwage. They both reflected on the civic processes they oversee both for the COVID-19 pandemic, and for other related processes that influence policy.
The most surprising thing that happened had to do with the Mayor. He was scheduled for 15 minutes, but after speaking to the group, he decided to stay for an hour! The group also asked if they could start a Youth Council to continue to talk to him and other City officials to understand how the best ways to get results for youth and he enthusiastically agreed. The most exciting progress had to do with our youth’s development from week 1 to week 6. A number of the youth have found a stronger voice and are advancing at a pace we did not expect. Even their ability to research and write down what they would like to talk about has gotten stronger. Our metrics and finished documents which will eventually be submitted to the Foundation will reflect their maturity during the program, at such a quick rate! We are certain that the youth will all leave the program (and this program will not end with the end of the grant period!) as more balanced and enthusiastic participants in the community and civic process.