Many Merced County young people are “disconnected” from school or jobs
Elected officials apparently don’t see the problem and offer few solutions
Soon enough, these young people will be of voting age; they will recall being ignored
BY ANDRE GUZMAN
I may be young, but I’m not naïve. I know that Merced City Council members want to keep their jobs. But what motivates them?
I wonder: What do our elected officials hear and see? Does the city council know that Merced County has one of the highest rates of disconnected youth in the state? Currently, more than 1 in 10 young people are not in school or working, which is double the state average. Many of us are not only disconnected, but we feel disrespected.
We will not, however, be deterred.
A youth I work with, David Macias, recently wrote a powerful and compelling story that was published on our website, We’Ced Youth Media, a local outlet that features stories from young writers. Here’s what he shared:
“A couple of weeks ago, I attended a City Council town hall. Disturbed by the lack of opportunities for Merced’s young people and the reluctance of my city to invest in its youth, I wanted to put these issues before the council.
“I was nervous, and had to build up the courage to stand and speak.
“When I did, I addressed the council with the utmost respect and conviction, determined to get my message across. But as I was speaking, I noticed that several council members were rolling their eyes, while others began to interrupt me.
“Rather than let me speak, council members peppered me with questions, many of which they knew went beyond my expertise. Even the mayor, in his body language and the comments he made, conveyed disdain. I doubt he heard anything I said.
“The message was clear: my opinion, my voice did not matter to the leadership of Merced.”
As a young leader of color in Merced, I’ve attended numerous town halls, forums and city council meetings over the past couple of years. And David is right – for now.
Our elected officials seem to think of young people as problems that need to be solved, rather than as people who deserve opportunities.