Initiative seeks to get younger voices involved with local government

Local News

Some young Davenport citizens are pushing to get young adults involved in city government.

A new effort in Davenport wants to see millennials make it a priority with everything else in their newsfeed.

The Davenport Youth Alliance is starting this month.

An 18-year-old running for city council and a former member of the Davenport Civil Rights Commission are leading the effort.

They said right now is a perfect moment to begin as the city nears a municipal election in the fall.

Three millennials at a coffee shop is hardly a rarity, but their topic of conversation isn’t the release of this year’s pumpkin spice latte or a frequent trending topic for their generation.

Co-director Shylee Garrett said, “I think a lot of young people have a lot of great ideas they can bring to the table; they just don’t know where to go with them.”

Alexandra Dermody, Shylee Garrett and Elizabeth VanCamp are talking civics on the local level and trying to find a way to engage those in their generation.

Director Alexandra Dermody said, “I also think a lot of them don’t know that they have a say in local government.”

It’s become something they’ve encountered as Alexandra runs for Davenport’s 7th Ward and Elizabeth is in the race of the mayoral office.

Dermody said, “What 20-year-old gets the newspaper nowadays and that’s where you see a lot of stuff [about city government]. How many 20-year-old watch the 5 o’clock news, not enough. There’s a communication gap there, so when I go around and talk with them a big thing that I hear is, well, I don’t even know who my mayor is. I don’t know what ward I’m in. I don’t know who my alderman is.”

By creating the Davenport Youth Alliance, the goal is to teach about the system of city government, who’s in charge and it’s most pressing issues.

Garrett said, “I think the Youth Alliance can bridge one the communication gap and two, an action gap.”

In addition to the education piece, they plan to create a space for citizen journalism where teens and young adults can discuss topics important to them.

They feel that’s especially true when it comes to tackling issues facing or involving youth, such as juvenile crime.

Dermody said, “People can go on and on all they want but if they don’t include younger generations if they don’t include these kids, they’re never going to know what to do.”

With the Youth Alliance, they hope to inspire teens and young adults to find their voice to be a part of these discussions.

Dermody said, “It will give them a place to be heard and a place to feel like they belong and that is a very powerful thing.”

She added, “These kids don’t feel like they have a future. That they don’t have a place to belong and so the Youth Alliance is going to give them a place to belong and give them a voice so they can be heard and that they feel like they have a future.”

They’re looking to lead the example at their local coffee shop.

Garrett said, “Some people like to say that Iowa’s export is young people, so we should actually try to keep those young people here to really embrace and move forward.”

Part of their plans includes reaching out to people in other generations for advice on their experiences and involvement in city government.

“When you bring adults who are engaged and active, even in on the business side, political side,” Garrett said. “Then have young people who have excellent ideas perhaps about after school programs, different park and recs needs.”

To learn more about and get involved with the Davenport Youth Alliance, visit their Facebook page.

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