Youth councils in the works to halt ‘brain drain’ in Stillaguamish Valley

ARLINGTON — City leaders have turned their attention toward young people to help steady the economy in the Stillaguamish Valley and keep locally grown talent close to home.

The Arlington City and Darrington Town councils have decided to form youth councils, one in each community, to give high-school-age students a voice in government and another reason to anchor themselves in their hometown.

Creating youth councils is part of a joint economic recovery effort — the Arlington and Darrington Community Revitalization Plan — that was submitted to the America’s Best Communities contest. In April, the partnership was named one of eight finalists in the national competition for a $3 million top prize.

As a finalist, the effort by Arlington and Darrington received $100,000 to work for the next year on projects outlined in the plan. Leaders decided to use $10,000 to pay for a part-time adviser and materials for the youth councils. In the future, the city and town likely will have to weave the cost into their annual budgets.

The job of a youth council is to advise city leaders on issues affecting young people and teach teens about teamwork, leadership and public service. By taking teens’ ideas into consideration, officials hope to create a Stillaguamish Valley that is more appealing for bright young people to stay in after they graduate from high school or college.

“Smaller rural communities frequently lose their young people as they move out of the area to pursue higher education and entry-level careers, resulting in a ‘brain drain’ of talent needed to sustain a vibrant local economy,” according to the revitalization plan.

The youth councils are open to students in eighth through 12th grades who live in Arlington or Darrington’s school district boundaries. The groups are expected to have seven members serving one-year terms that can be renewed. Meetings would be held twice a month and employees from the cities and school districts are being brought in to help get the councils off the ground.

The Arlington City Council approved the formation of its youth council Monday.

“Establishment of a City of Arlington Youth Council will ensure that the voice of Arlington’s young people is a part of the dialogue when talking about how the community builds for tomorrow,” according to the council documents.

The Darrington Town Council voted to start a youth council at its July 13 meeting. Town officials have been working with the Darrington Library, North Counties’ Family Services and the Darrington School District to iron out the details.

Applications to join the Arlington council can be found online at arlingtonwa.gov/AYC and in person at City Hall on Olympic Avenue.

The Darrington Youth Council applications are being drafted and should be available soon at the town hall on Cascade Street.

Questions about the Arlington Youth Council can be directed to Sarah Lopez at 360-403-3448 and questions about the Darrington Youth Council to Raelyn Jones at 360-436-1131.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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