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Midvale Journal

Midvale’s NextGen Initiative gives a voice to students

Nov 07, 2023 11:48AM ● By Peri Kinder

The first NextGen Initiative group met in October and will serve through April 2024. It is made up of high school students from Midvale who want to get involved with community issues. (Photo courtesy of Midvale City)

As a Hillcrest High senior, Nyah Cox is part of a new movement in Midvale to provide the city’s youth with a platform where their voices can be heard. Through Mayor Marcus Stevenson’s NextGen Initiative, high school students are encouraged to get involved with community issues and shape the city’s future.

Cox, and 10 other students, make up the first NextGen cohort. They have committed their time to meet once a month at Midvale City Hall, to learn about local government, offer ideas for change and discuss topics that affect the city. 

“I wanted to get involved so I could be a voice for other students and kids like me who want to have an impact on their community,” Cox said. “There is a lot I hope to accomplish during my time in the initiative, and ultimately, I hope that myself and other youth in this initiative can help other kids want to speak up and voice their opinion on things that are happening around them.”

Stevenson hopes to harness the energy, optimism and passion of youth leaders to increase their opportunity for civic engagement. He met with students at the end of the last school year to introduce the program and get their feedback.

He was surprised by how enthusiastic students were to talk about their biggest concerns which included homelessness, gang violence and policing. As part of the program, the NextGen leaders will be able to present their ideas and recommendations to the city council, based on those issues. 

“It was really eye-opening to me to see how aware our kids are, how much they see the things impacting our community and how much they have opinions on how we address some of these really difficult topics,” Stevenson said. “We really are trying to make sure this is student-led and they get an idea of the inner workings of the city, but we also really dive into some of those issues that they’re most interested in.”

Part of the goal for the six-month NextGen Initiative is to dive into the day-to-day functions of city departments, from public works to planning and zoning. Students will get a firsthand look at how decisions are made, projects are approved and problems are addressed.

Stevenson just turned 29 and has been engaged with community work since he was 18. But it was when he was in eighth grade that community service piqued his interest. He found it was daunting to figure out how to get involved at that age and hopes this new program creates an avenue for youth to follow their desire to serve. 

“When I was in eighth grade, I was interested but didn’t find a way to start getting involved until I was a senior in high school,” he said. “So there were four years…that I just didn’t even know where to go. So we can be proactive and show that this option exists and help them take that little leap of faith.”

The NextGen group consists of Jacklyn Wei, Matthew Miller, Hayley Carvalho, Tessa Andersen, Isabella Goates, Ivy Costello, Nyah Cox, Ethan Mears, Manvi Chechi, Benjamin Bridge, and Maqee Chavez.

“You don’t have to save the world, but one small impact can do a lot of good for you and the people around you,” Cox said. “Every kid in this initiative has an equal stand, that’s what I like about it, that other kids, from other backgrounds, no matter how they grew up, can be involved in something like this.”λ