WCU Public Policy Institute Organizes Youth Assembly

Two hundred students from Western North Carolina will have their voices heard on a variety of issues facing local government across the region when they convene in a youth assembly Saturday, March 24, in Asheville, organized by Western Carolina University’s Public Policy Institute.

The Local Government Youth Assembly, the first gathering of its kind in the state, is funded by an $8,000 grant from the Civic Education Consortium of the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Government through the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The city of Asheville and the Asheville Citizen-Times are co-sponsors of the event, open to a limited number of students in grades 8 through 12 from public and private schools in WNC.

“We are organizing this assembly so our region’s young people may become more aware of local governments and the issues they face. Many leaders are looking forward to hearing how the region’s youth would deal with these problems,” said Gordon Mercer, director of WCU’s Public Policy Institute. “We believe the issues local governments deal with impact lives more directly than any other level of government, and we think our youth need to get involved in solving these problems. A regional approach, which gives the students an opportunity to propose and vote on simulated legislation, will help prepare youth for for the responsibilities of citizenship.” Scheduled speakers include Asheville Mayor Leni Sitnik; Nathan Ramsey, chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners; Virgil Smith, president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times; Jim Westbrook, Asheville city manager; Patsy Keever, Buncombe County commissioner; and Will Annarino, Asheville chief of police.

Organizers of the assembly, to be held at the Asheville Civic Center, are encouraging participating students to contact their local government officials and gather information for their simulated legislation. Among the topics on the agenda will be planning for growth, economic development, citizen involvement, educational improvements, the environment, health and human services, tourism promotion and cultural diversity.

Registration for the assembly is now under way, and students from Asheville, Enka, Franklin, Madison, Tuscola and West Henderson high schools; Enka and Rugby middle schools; Highlands School; and the LBJ Job Corps Student Government Association already have signed up for the event.

For more information, contact the Public Policy Institute at (828) 227-2086.