Teens say civic involvement is lacking among Downey youth

Twenty-eight Downey teenagers have submitted applications to serve on the city's new Youth Commission, an advisory body that will provide input on youth matters directly to City Council members.Council members on Tuesday are expected to choose 15 applicants to serve as commissioners. The positions are unpaid. In their applications, many teens expressed a desire to increase civic involvement among high school students. "I believe that a large problem with the youth of Downey is that they are growing and developing with lack of awareness in their community," wrote Natalie Ramirez, a sophomore at St. Joseph High School. Rebekah Jin, a former intern at that Patriot, said teens "can definitely improve their involvement in community services activities. As a commission, we can create opportunities for youth of all ages to get involved and be proud of the city they live in." Some applicants pointed to a growing number of distractions affecting teens today. "There are many students who are distracted by drugs and several other horrible things," wrote Genesis Jara, a freshman at Warren High School. "(As) technology advances more and more, youth of Downey care less about the environment which surrounds them," is how Xitalyc Cardenas, a junior at Warren, put it. "We need to start making things happen, not just watching them." Meanwhile, Brenda Lopez, a senior at Downey High, spoke out against the growing number of hookah lounges in the city. "I feel that the biggest problem facing the youth of Downey is the influence of our city on teenagers portraying the message that smoking is okay," she wrote. "The city transmits this message through the opening of a hookah (bar) between both the city's high schools. and the allowing of public smoking. Through these actions the youth is affected by the rise of asthma and the uprising trend of going to hookah bars becoming 'cool.' I believe this is an unacceptable message sent by our city's actions..." Jacob Quiroz, a senior at Servite High School, said a youth commission could take a stance against intolerance. "It's rare to go a day without hearing some term or joke being used at the expense of the misunderstood," Quiroz wrote. "Acts of intolerances have always been present in every community and it deserves to be dealt with immediately within the city of Downey. No day should go where phrases like "retard" or "faggot" are used without correction." Predictably, too, some teens brought up the issue that there's "nothing to do in Downey." "I feel that the youth of Downey are simply bored and need more activities that pertain to them such as things they can do with their families, or simply to interact with other youth year-round," wrote Breann Mejias, a junior at Calvary Chapel Christian School. Downey High senior Kimberly Matamoros agreed. "The late Friday night parties that are compelling to teens may seem like their only alternative to a good time, but I think we need to encourage other options for a fun hangout," she wrote. "The Youth Commission could create awareness to lead the youth to good decisions for a fun Friday hangout. Posters and announcements could be posted to encourage the youth to attend a more wholesome activity like going to the movies, mall or attend an athletic event to support their school. Teens need to know they don't need to resort to the "cool thing" to do because it could possibly lead them into trouble." The youth commission is open to all Downey residents enrolled in grades 9-12, regardless of the school's location. Each council member will select three applicants.