Manatee County has many great programs and services for children and teens - America's Promise Alliance even recognized the area as one of the 100 best communities for young people in 2010. There are many opportunities for youth to succeed as volunteers, students, and community leaders. The missing piece in Manatee County is that youth are often left out of important policy decisions that impact programs and services for children and teens. The Manatee County Youth Commission addresses this missing piece by providing a formal opportunity for youth to affect social change in their community. Involving youth in local decision - making is crucial to ensuring that cities and counties construct effective policies and nurture the next generation of leaders and productive citizens. For 15 years, the National League of Cities has documented the benefits of including youth in public policy, planning, and decision-making. Some of these documented benefits include:
- Budget savings and revenue generation. Youth input can redirect city or county investments away from programs and facilities that would be underutilized into areas that reflect the needs of youth and their families.
- Increased support for community initiatives. The partnerships between local government and young people can be invaluable in helping youth and their families learn about, and then work on behalf of, [community] plans and policies.
- Improved policies and programs for youth. Young people can raise genuine concerns about their education, health and safety and offer workable options and solutions.
- Identification as a youth-friendly community. Communities that engage youth in the work of local government are consistently listed among the top places for young people to live. Many businesses are attracted to cities with this distinction, and there is increasing evidence that young adults want to reside in a community that valued them when they were young.
- Improved indicators of well-being. Studies show that youth in civic engagement programs are more likely to graduate, adopt productive attitudes about their role in the community and avoid risky behaviors. When these same youth reach adulthood, they tend to vote, volunteer and become valuable members of the workforce. They become lifelong civic leaders.
"Authentic Youth Civic Engagement: A Guide for Municipal Leaders." National League of Cities. 2010