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Youth take action in city government

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is lucky to have a team of Youth Planners, who work to involve Portland’s youth in the Portland Plan process. The Youth Planning Program was initiated in 2007. Youth Planners reach out to Portland youth who consider themselves unheard — or just don't know how to be heard as they advocate on behalf of youth around Portland. The Youth Planners show their peers how to get involved and how to translate the words of city government into language they can understand.

The Portland Plan is the City’s 25-year strategic plan, so who better to consult than the people who will be adults in 2035? Youth provide a fresh perspective, and given that 45 percent of K-12 students in Portland are people of color, they can help us understand and plan for Portland’s changing demographic.

Just recently the Youth Planners hosted Portland Plan workshops at Midland Library, EcoTrust Natural Capital Center, Portland Community College and even near P.S.U . The Youth Planners partnered with the Library Teen Councils to help distribute the Youth Bomb Surveys and provide opportunities for youth voice to be heard. With the help of the teen councils, Youth Planners collected over 800 Youth Bomb Surveys (which is only a small fraction of the youth in Portland).

The Youth Bomb Survey asked questions about arts, education, neighborhoods and housing, employment opportunities, and parks. Survey results emphasized the importance of community events, arts education, job and skill development, and housing choices/affordability. The Youth Planners awarded Midland Library Teen Council an ice cream party for collecting the most surveys.

Our Bill of Rights: Children and Youth and the Youth Engagement Manual

One of the first projects for the Youth Planning Program was the creation of “Our Bill of Rights: Children + Youth.” The document was passed by Portland’s City Council in August 2006, guaranteeing all youth the right to be involved in decisions that affect their lives. To advance Council’s directive, the Youth Planners recently unveiled the Youth Engagement Manual to assist local government with the integration of youth engagement, empowerment and voice into the City’s work.

To create the Youth Engagement Manual, the Youth Planners spent months interviewing youth organizers, adult community organizers who work with youth, Portland and Multnomah County government employees, elected officials and business people. With distribution assistance from Portland Parks and Recreation and the Multnomah County Library Teen Councils, Youth Planners surveyed more than 100 youth to see where and how they would like to engage in local government. Focus groups and panels were aimed at engaging youth in local government, and ensured that local government knows how to support those youth when they do express interest in increased involvement.

The Youth Planners also held in-depth discussions with members of the Multnomah Youth Commission. The Multnomah Youth Commission, the official youth policy body for both Multnomah County and the City of Portland, is a group of young people, ages 13-21, that strives to provide a voice for youth in the County & City’s work. Housed within the Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families & Community and the City of Portland’s Office of the Mayor the MYC works to change policy affecting young people, as well as negative community perception about youth.

Youth Action Grants

Youth Planners, in partnership with Global Citizen Corps, Portland Community College, Mercy Corps, and the Multnomah Youth Commission awarded over $5,000 for community based projects initiated, designed, and run by youth 21 and under. The Youth Action Grants Program provides grants of up to $1,000 to any youth or group of youth in Portland who want to take creative action that makes Our Bill of Rights: Children + Youth a reality! Strong youth-adult partnerships enable communities to build their own Portland and turn community vision into action!

Mayor Sam Adams, Portland Community College President Preston Pulliams, Portland Community College Foundation’s Heidi Wilcox, Multnomah County Commissioner Barbara Willer, PCC Students4Giving Program Instructor Kim Smith, PhD were on hand to award  Portland youth grants to support cultural celebrations, host a battle of the bands, help welcome incoming freshmen, paint a mural, and help create a film.  These projects will involve over 1,000 youth this summer!

More about the Youth Planning Program

All Youth Planners are in their teens and work with an adult Youth Program Coordinator. They have become an integral part of the bureau, and the outreach they have done with their peers and the minority communities has been invaluable. Through their efforts, Portland might one day be known as the City of Youth Voice!

As highlighted in the new Youth Engagement Manual, The Youth Planning Program aspires to:
• have youth considered in every decision that affects them.
• have successful youth programs and advisory groups in every bureau and every part of local government.
• ensure that youth enter City Hall and other government buildings confidently, knowing they will find a receptive ear.
• have strong community youth organizations that have many vocal allies within government.

With the Youth Planning program, Portland’s youth can make a difference in the city's future. Youth and adults can get involved by visiting