AMHERST - Amherst's young people now have a voice with the creation of the town's first youth advisory council.
Members of the youth council took their oaths of office during a ceremony at joint meeting with Amherst town council on Tuesday and immediately peppered members of council with a number of questions.
"It's important for the youth to have a voice within the town and this council gives us that opportunity," youth council chair Zac Black said. "We never really a voice with the town before and no one seemed to be listening when we did have ideas."
Black, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student at Amherst Regional High School, first heard of the youth council when representatives from the town met with the school's students council several months ago.
While he hopes to eventually study to be a doctor, Black said serving on the youth council will give him experience working in the community and he's looking forward to getting ideas from his fellow students and bringing them to the council.
Chris Baxter, who is in Grade 9 at ARHS, feels young people need to be heard.
"We have a lot of good ideas," said Baxter. "I wanted to be part of the political process of town council and get the youth's ideas heard to make Cumberland County a better place for young people."
Baxter said the youth council will gather ideas and input from the schools and bring them to their meetings. Through their council liaison, in this case Mayor Rob Small, their thoughts and ideas will be brought to town council.
As well, there will likely be quarterly joint meetings during which youth councillors can ask council direct questions.
Joining Black and Baxter on the council are Alex Stathakis, James Gaudet and Daniel Ripley from ARHS and Hannah Melanson and Chelsey Brown of E.B. Chandler Junior High.
Establishing a youth council was one of several priorities identified by town council early in 2009.
"The public said they wanted a youth advisory council. During the 2008 election campaign, people said there were a number of things they wanted to see but there was no voice for youth," the mayor said. "We questioned what do youth want and how can we help our youth, so we created this youth advisory council to accomplish that."
Small sees the youth council bringing forward ideas from youth on issues that are important to them, adding the first joint meeting saw several important issues brought forward including discussions on the skateboard park, Dickey Park's redevelopment and holding a number of youth events within the community.