PPI Organizing WNC Youth Assembly

Two hundred students from Western North Carolina will have their voices heard on a variety of issues facing local governments across the region when they convene in a youth assembly Saturday, March 23, in Asheville, an event organized by Western Carolina University’s Public Policy Institute.

The second annual Local Government Youth Assembly, co-sponsored by the city of Asheville and the Asheville Citizen-Times, is open to a limited number of students in grades 8 through 12 from public and private schools in WNC.

“Last year, we held the nation’s first Local Government Youth Assembly so our region’s young people would begin to become more aware of local governments and the issues they face,” said Gordon Mercer, director of Western’s Public Policy Institute. Some 200 students from across WNC expressed their views – and proposed solutions – on a variety of local issues, including landfill capacity, mobile home park spacing regulations and winter weather school cancellation policies.

“We are planning this second assembly because 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,” Mercer said. “We need to help prepare our youth for the responsibilities of citizenship and leadership.”

Scheduled speakers include Asheville Mayor Charles Worley; Virgil Smith, president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times; Jim Westbrook, Asheville city manager; and Mandy Stone, director of Buncombe County’s Office of Social Services.

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, Erwin, Mountain Heritage, North Buncombe, Reynolds, Rosman, Pisgah, Tuscola and West Henderson high schools; Cane Creek, Rugby and Stanley middle schools; Highlands School; and the LBJ Job Corps Student Government Association already have signed up for the event.

The Horowitz Foundation provided additional funding for the assembly.

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