Loudoun High Schoolers Take the Dais for Youth in Government Day

Representatives from the county Advisory Commission on Youth faced some tough questioning from the Board of Supervisors dais Thursday, April 20.

Commission Chairman Jeff Goldman and at-large representative Michael Reles were facing experts on the subject—high schoolers.

Thursday was Youth in Government Day, when high schoolers from across the county spend a day deep in the workings of county government. They joined supervisors and senior county staff members on the dais for the county board’s business meeting Thursday evening.

Goldman and Reles were there to update supervisors on trends in youth demographics, academic achievements, school discipline, and juvenile justice, as well as the results of a youth survey the commission launched.

After that survey, the commission recommended the county extend its Youth After School program to all middle schools, extend some high school programs like some clubs and athletics to middle schools, and provide Friday night library teen center programs—such the one offered at Cascades Library—across the county.

But some of the new supervisors on the dais were skeptical of the survey results.

“Most of the time, we’re just trying to get done with it,” said Sofia Salas-Carvajal, seated next to Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg). “So, the responses that you might be receiving aren’t necessarily accurate.”

Goldman acknowledged that some the survey “had colorful responses.”

“There was a free question where, when we asked what do you think the number one problem in Loudoun was, we got everything from ‘I’m bored’ to ‘I want to be done with this survey’ to ‘I’m copying the answers of the person next to me,’” Goldman said. However, on issues that mattered—like middle school cyber-bullying—he said there was a “statistically significant” response.

Others were looking ahead.

“Me and my friends were talking about it, and we feel like we’re being given enough information on how to identify bullying and depression in suicidal people,” said Mary Kamara, helping out Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “But we feel like we’re actually not given enough information on how to deal with it from there on out.”

There Goldman acknowledged a shortcoming in county resources. Because schools each provide their own bullying awareness education—rather than a single system-wide program—it’s hard the get a countywide view of how well that education is used.

“So the resources are there for them to use, but we don’t have a measure of how much it is used,” Goldman said.

And Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn)’s counterpart, Lesley Angeles, wanted to know: Are there any vacancies? Goldman reported the commission is short one at-large representative, and one representative from health and behavioral services. That prompted Buona to urge his colleagues to find an at-large appointment to fill out the commission’s ranks.

The teenaged visitors had also held a debate that morning on a momentous county board decision from the recent past: joining the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority compact and bringing Metro to Loudoun. They voted in favor.

rgreene@loudounnow.com
@RenssGreene

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