Engaging Youth

Free or minimal cost activities

CML encourages municipal officials (both elected and staff) to visit with students in local schools to educate them on civics and what it takes to be a good citizen anytime during the year. After all, students are the next generation of citizens and voters! If you have a desire to connect with youth, Colorado Cities & Towns Week is an ideal time. Encourage staff, elected, and/or appointed officials to contact an elementary, middle, or high school and ask to speak to students about the importance of local government and community involvement. 

Offer a special guest (firefighter, police officer, mayor, councilmember, manager ...) to read to kids during a story hour, or to explain the importance of local government to older students. 

When visiting with younger children, bring coloring books and crayons being offered free by CML (available soon - or print the books from a PDF now).

Brush Schools2016 highlights: Brush councilmembers and staff visited schools to talk to students about different aspects of local government, while the Denver clerk and recorder and councilmember visited high school history classes to discuss civic engagement, the importance of voting (and how to navigate the process), and being involved in the community.

Invite students to municipal facilities.

2016 highlight: The Town of Severance hosted a field trip for third grade students to town hall, where they learned about elections from the clerk, about governing from the mayor and board members, learned about the municipal fleet from public works, and discussed public safety with the Weld County Sheriff Department.

If you have a government access channel, produce a program in which elected or appointed officials meet with high schoolers (your youth commission or class officers are a good place to start), asking them about the issues that are important to them. If you do not have a channel, invite them to participate in a roundtable discussion with council.

Offer an afternoon of free fingerpainting at the police station or city/town hall.

Showcase local student talents and arts at community events.  

Hold an art/coloring contest for elementary school students related to a particular municipal government issue (recycling, water conservation, fire or police services, recreation and parks, transportation, planning, etc.) Winners could receive a certificate, mention in your newsletter, recognition at a council/board meeting, or gift certificate. Display winning artwork at city/town hall. Click here for some suggested guidelines.

2016 highlight: The City of Alamosa held a mayor's art contest for elementary students asking them "What service do you like?"

Hold an essay contest focusing on local government services. Recognize winner(s) at a town board/city council meeting and/or offer personalized city/town hall tour for the winning student and classmates. Click here for some suggested guidelines.

Host a competition to seek the best solution to a municipal problem and recognize students/teachers at a council meeting.  

Sponsor a local government career day at a school. Invite a few department heads to attend and spend 10 minutes each on what their roles are. 

Showcase police, fire, and/or public works vehicles at an elementary school or other popular location. 

2016 highlight: The Town of Windsor had its public works, police, and fire departments bring their vehicles to local preschools for a "touch-a-truck" events.

Host a youth in government night. Invite elected officials and department heads to speak about important community issues and how kids’ lives are affected by municipal government. 

Invite local youth groups or organizations (scouts, debate teams, high school seniors, etc.) to attend a council/board meeting, perhaps including a tour of city/town hall or other municipal-run facility. 

If your municipality already has a recognition program in place to acknowledge youth (“Teen of the Month” program, for example), consider bringing together all of the 2016 winners for recognition during a council/board meeting, reception, or school presentation. 

Activities that require additional resources

Work with high school history, civics, or social studies teachers to organize a mock Government Day or “Doing Democracy Day” (a multicommunity, multischool event devoted to area students wrestling with local issues, using local leaders as resources). For more information, contact Lessons on Local Government Consultant and “Doing Democracy Day” Cofounder Kent Willmann.  

Consider establishing a youth council in your city/town. These councils typically plan community service projects, hold entertaining activities for families and youth, and provide input to elected officials regarding youth needs and concerns. 

Hold a mock election with the help of teachers and city council members. Let the “elected student officials” conduct a council/board meeting and have them come up with ideas on how to improve their community. The real elected officials can then give them advice on their ideas — whether or not their ideas would work and why (or why not).  

Working in coordination with a middle or high school, create an advisory committee of students to study a particular municipal government issue of importance to teenagers (for example, recreation or volunteerism) and prepare a formal report with recommendations to council. Or include youth representation on an existing citizen committee, commission, or board studying an issue of consequence to teens. Make a formal announcement of these appointments during Colorado Cities & Towns Week.

Develop a “job shadow” program for an afternoon, when students can learn first-hand what municipal employees do.