A new initiative between Broome County and local students aims to promote youth civic engagement and create ideas to counter “brain drain” — or the departure of young, educated professionals from the area. On Monday at the Broome County Office Building, County Executive Jason Garnar announced the formation of the Student Board of Advisors, a youth council that will provide local government officials with students’ perspectives on community issues.
“Bringing young people together with the local government will give us an opportunity to tap into the creativity, energy and passion which may have previously been overlooked,” Garnar said. “We’ve never done anything like this before and I think this board has tremendous potential.”
Garnar pointed to the aging population of Broome County residents, as well as the tendency of students to leave the city once they graduate, as key reasons to engage young people in the community early on.
“Everyone knows what the brain drain is; we’ve been talking about it for years,” he said. “We need to work harder to retain our youth and make an environment where people want to stay here to start businesses, careers and families. What we’re setting up today is a way that we can start acting on it and preventing people who are young from leaving.”
The board was suggested by Brianna Cea, the president of the Roosevelt Institute — a campus group dedicated to student-crafted progressive policy — and a sophomore double-majoring in political science and philosophy, politics and law. Cea said collaboration between council members and local decision-makers will supplement students’ education with real-world experience.
“By bringing all of these leaders and perspectives together, the [Student Board of Advisors] will have a built-in mentorship component as we learn from each other and work toward creating a more inclusive and participatory government,” Cea said.
The board will be the first youth delegation to exist in Broome County and will be composed of students from Binghamton University, Broome Community College, Davis College and area high schools. Between 20 and 25 seats will be available and each school district in the county will be invited to nominate students. Members are expected to be selected by fall 2017, and will meet monthly with Garnar and other local legislators.
Garnar highlighted the possibility of increasing the number of students working in various departments of Broome County. He estimated that there are currently between 20 and 30 student interns and said he hopes to triple or quadruple that number within a year.
“The Student Board of Advisors isn’t just designed to promote youth engagement; it will also provide a new educational opportunity for students trying to make a difference in their community,” he said.
Binghamton City Councilman Conrad Taylor, a junior majoring in political science, said the council’s creation is a great avenue for students’ voices to be heard and to impact the community in a positive way.
“The more we can get our local students to feel invested in the future of our community, the more they will want to stay in our community,” Taylor said.
Students interested in serving on the board are invited to attend an information session on Tuesday at the Broome County Public Library from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Administrators from local school districts who wish to nominate students are also encouraged to attend.