BRISTOL - ‚ÄúThere are actually 187 reasons why young people should get involved in government,‚ÄĚ Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu told Tunxis Community College students and faculty on Monday.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs the number of school shootings that have actually taken place in our country since Sandy Hook in 2012,‚ÄĚ Zoppo-Sassu continued. ‚ÄúThat is a number that is absolutely something I can‚Äôt live with.‚ÄĚ
The importance of youth involvement in government, and how it can improve the political process was the focus of a lecture organized by the college‚Äôs Civic Engagement Institute.
‚ÄúOur children, especially the ones in Parkland, who have refused to let this issue go its natural news cycle, are the future,‚ÄĚ Zoppo-Sassu said. ‚ÄúThose students will be voters in 2020, and I can hope that with their continued persistence that their story continues to be told and resonates with the rest of the country.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThey are pushing something that adults have not since 2012,‚ÄĚ she added. ‚ÄúThe fact that they are actually saying ‚ÄėPeople are not listening to us unless we scream,‚Äô really resonated with me.‚ÄĚ
The backlash of the 2016 presidential election impacted youth and increased their involvement in government, according to Zoppo-Sassu. She also noted how important the ‚Äúthink global, act local‚ÄĚ movement that followed that election increased youth engagement in government.
She noticed those impacts and increased involvement during her 2017 mayoral campaign when many local youth helped, and wanted to participate in her campaign, she explained. That got her thinking about how youth could become more involved in the city of Bristol, as well as benefit the community, she said.
‚ÄúYouth issues are community issues, but they don‚Äôt have a voice,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThey impact all of us and a healthy community is one in which everyone feels that they are connected.‚ÄĚ
In order for youth to become more involved they need adult allies that listen, let them know they are being heard, ask them to participate and allow them to serve on boards and commissions, she said.
This is particularly pertinent to Bristol because 21 percent of the city‚Äôs population is under the age of 18, Zoppo-Sassu pointed out.
She said young people in Bristol can get involved through the Mayor‚Äôs Youth Cabinet. Cabinet members meet monthly to learn about different parts of local government and have the opportunity to share their views at the monthly City Council meetings, she said.
‚ÄúI wanted them to know that they were important and that their voice is heard at City Hall,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúKids need to keep the proverbial seat at the table.‚ÄĚ
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at 860-801-5088 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org