Teen voices are coming coming through loud and clear here in San Ramon thanks to a very active group of teenagers who are members of the Teen Council.
Steve Fox, the council's advisor, said it was created in 1994 to serve as a liaison to the City Council and Parks and Community Services Committee to represent local teens and their issues and interests.
All resident middle and high school students may apply for a one-year term on the council, which is 21 members strong. It is chaired this year by Dougherty Valley High School senior Maekhila Koppikar.
Already involved in her school's leadership program and community and global outreach programs, Koppikar, 17, says her work with the Teen Council is an opportunity to learn more about the community she has lived in for the past 12 years.
The Teen Council, says Koppikar, is moving from an event-based committee to an advocacy-based group that serves as a bridge between teens and adults. They make teen issues known to the city government and help keep teens aware of what is going on in the city.
One such teen issue is the pressure that today's teens are facing.
"This is a very academically competitive community," says Koppikar, "where there is tons of pressure on teens" to get involved and to take numerous advanced placement classes.
Koppikar says issues like this have to be brought to the attention of the community so increased awareness will turn into more support for teens via forums for "peers-to-peers" and "teens-to-counselors" as well as college advisors.
"Teens need to know they are not alone and there are solutions," she said. "(We) need to find solutions ourselves and not just ask San Ramon (city government) to provide those services."
Last year, says Cox, the Teen Council hosted a showing of the film "A Race to Nowhere" on academic pressures on students. More than 250 attended the showing and took part in the question/answer session with the film's director.
The Teen Council also hosted a teen shadow day, with teens shadowing local government leaders and taking part in a mock city council meeting.
Koppikar says this year the Teen Council is also reviewing a tobacco ordinance to create "safer situations" for teens and to make parks and general public places where teens are safe from secondhand smoke.
"Not only do we have a voice in the city," says Koppikar on issues such as the Fourth of July festivities, but, she added, the teen involvement is also important because "it shows adults that we are very involved and very interested in what goes on around us. We are the future of our city and our country."
Cox agrees that because of "the youthfulness of San Ramon and increase in the number of teens, it is important for teens to have some sort of representation and have the opportunity to voice first-hand the concerns, opinions, needs and wants of the teen population in San Ramon."
Teen Council members serve as liaisons to 10 city government committees including the Arts Advisory, Open Space and Conservation Advisory, Senior Citizens Advisory, Planning, Transportation Advisory and other committees.
The Teen Council meets once a month at the Dougherty Station Community Center. Subcommittees meet a second time during the month.
Subcommittees include Community Outreach chaired by Brian Su from Dougherty Valley High School; Public Relations, chaired by Roger Zou, also from Dougherty, and Programing Committee, chaired by Miranda Shakes of California High.
Koppikar invites other teens to get involved and take an interest in the Teen Council. New members are always welcomed.
"Keep us going as an awesome council of teens," she said.
Contact Monica Lander at firstname.lastname@example.org.