Young leaders of the Multnomah Youth Commission share passions, works

February 13, 2018

From left: Multnomah Youth Commissioners Charity Dunlevy-Todd; LaShawn McCarthy (speaking); and Balkhissa Noor
Young people with the Multnomah Youth Commission, the official youth policy body for the City of Portland and Multnomah County, presented before the County board Tuesday morning.

The commission, which includes youth ages 13 to 21 from local high schools and colleges, was established in 1996. Eighty-percent of youth on the commission are youth of color. The commission’s roles include: policy recommendations, building relationships, community engagement, working with elected officials and youth-adult partnerships.

“Our mission is to work in the community to foster youth leadership, bring youth voice into government, change policy affecting young people, and shift negative community perceptions about youth,” said Charity Dunlevy-Todd, Franklin High School senior.

Five youth, many who chair or co-chair subset committees within the commission, shared their passion and focus-areas with the board.

“My name is LaShawn McCarthy. I use he, him pronouns and I’m a freshman at Warner Pacific College. This is my sixth year on MYC and I’m a member of the Education Youth Voice Committee,” said McCarthy.

“Our main work has been to reduce chronic absenteeism.”

McCarthy described focus groups convened in 2014 at nine different schools in Multnomah County. The data compiled from the groups was used to create policy recommendations including pushing back start times to 8:45 a.m. or later at Portland Public Schools.

The committee has received overwhelming support for later start times. The group also organizes a youth candidate forum with candidates running for public office.

“As someone who attended and graduated from high school, this committee allows me to shape schools in ways that I would have liked to have seen in my time,” said McCarthy.  

“The MYC has inspired me to run for office in the future.”

Other youth described initiatives such as:

  • Equitable, fair and safe transit system for youth

  • Safe routes to school

  • Youth transit passes

  • Youth-led “Know your Rights Training on Immigration” hosted in partnership with Commissioner Lori Stegmann and Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO: Africa House)

  • Mini-grants in support of preventing youth violence

The commission works directly with elected leaders including: listening sessions with Chair Deborah Kafoury and listening sessions with Franklin High School’s Latino Club and Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson.

“I love having Charity as an elected liaison for our office,” said Commissioner Vega Pederson. “Working on healthy relationships with regards to sexual violence and dating violence topics, that ties into the work I do with the CSEC (Commercial Sexual and Exploitation of Children) committee.”

“The work that all of you are doing in becoming voices for your peers and prioritizing social justice aspects of what’s happening from your perspective is great,” said Vega Pederson. “I’m so impressed by each and every one of you.”

“I have seen first hand how the MYC helps people grow and become adults,” said Chair Kafoury.  

“LaShawn, I’m going to embarrass you,” she continued. “The first time I met you, you were a little more shy and reserved. To see the change from last year as the co-chair of the commission and this year a college student, it’s really exciting to see that.”

“I have no doubt you will be successful in public office.”

From Left: Commissioner Sharon Meieran; MYC 's Antonia McSwain and Ahlam Osman, Commissioner Loretta Smith, MYC's LaShawn McCarthy, Balkhissa Noor; and Charity Dunlevy-Todd, Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson and Chair Deborah Kafoury.