A new program is helping Fountain youth take an active role in their community and local government.
Councilwoman Detra Duncan worked with City Manager Scott Trainor to develop the Fountain Youth Council, a program Duncan says will allow local teens to learn about and get involved in municipal government, gain leadership experience, represent and advocate for youth, build their resumés and make friends — all while improving their community. The Fountain City Council approved the program in April.
“During my campaign I had a lot of youth asking me, ‘What do you do?’ and ‘How do you run for office?’ So I decided we were going to start this program to teach them,” said Duncan, who was elected to the city council last year. “It’s really geared to train youths to be leaders who are educated and informed about their local government.”
To join, teens must be Fountain residents, attend any local school, and be “willing to be involved in diverse groups,” Duncan said. Two $1,000 scholarships will be available next year to help students further their education via college or trade school.
So far this year, six teens between the ages of 14 and 18 have joined the youth council and were sworn in this month to serve one-year terms.
“I really like to explore new things, and I wanted to see what I can learn through this program that I can then put back into adulthood,” said youth council member Deylen Duncan.
Participant Antonio Martinez said he wanted to learn more about local laws through the program. “I’m interested in developing a sense of community and knowing what’s right,” he said.
The other students — Vivian Corriea, Vanessa Wilkerson, Jason Martinez and Charlize Rafferty — said the opportunity for new experiences, meeting new people and learning to lead inspired them to join.
The Fountain Youth Council is the first of its kind in the city, Trainor said. In 2011, the Parks and Recreation Board created a junior parks board, but its focus was solely on parks and recreation. It was active for a few years, but shut down around 2017 when its founder and some of its most important recruiters left the program, he said.
“Councilmember Duncan’s vision was to create the Fountain Youth Council with a much broader scope of involvement,” Trainor said in an email to The Gazette.
During their tenure, youth council members will engage in several civic and community activities, Duncan said.
They’ll run for political offices in the youth council, hold an election, learn how to manage a campaign, learn how to prepare a budget and record meeting minutes. The teens will attend city council meetings, complete a community service project, learn about city issues, and provide the Fountain City Council with a youth perspective, Duncan said. They’ll also have the chance to visit the Colorado Capitol, as well as meet with local and state leaders.
“It’s so important that kids understand city government, because understanding, to me, is power,” said Pikes Peak Diversity Council Vice President Shirley Martinez. Her grandsons, 15-year-old twins Antonio Martinez and Jason Martinez, are members of the youth council. “It’s imperative that we be invested in our kids, especially now that they’re online, going to school.”
So far, the youth council has attended meetings and conducted a Thanksgiving canned food drive.