Topeka Youth Commission Announces Inaugural Membership of 23 Youth
The purpose of the commission is to provide opportunities for youth to connect with local government, participate in volunteer opportunities, and serve on city and county boards and commissions. The Topeka Youth Commission is committed to youth engaging adults in partnership to transform our community for the greater good of all.
The Topeka Youth Commission will involve fellow youths in policy-making and participation in projects that have long-term, positive impacts on the City of Topeka and Shawnee County. The foundation for Topeka Youth Commission began with the vision of community activist, Melissa Masoner. Since September 2018, Carolyn Ward has been facilitating the organization of the Topeka Youth Commission, along with founding youth members Bryce Liedtke, Nicole Bloomquist, Jacob Gernon, Makenna Orton, and Lillian Holmberg, and adult advocates Leo Espinoza, and Veronica Lysaught.
The Topeka Youth Commission has developed formal partnerships with the Greater Topeka Partnership (GTP) - acting as the fiscal agent and administrative home. Within GTP, the commission is aligned with Forge due to their similar goals. Washburn University provides training and technical assistance. Washburn University recently hosted an all-day orientation for the new members and will continue to assist with ongoing training and technical assistance.
The three primary focus areas of the Topeka Youth Commission are: 1) local government, 2) outreach, and 3) community involvement. Within the local government focus, the TopCity Youth Council is comprised of nine Topeka Youth Commission members from each city council district.
“I am excited that as a community that is looking to engage and have a meaningful avenue for everyone all over our city we have an opportunity that represents voices of youth. They are not just our future they are our now,” said City of Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla.
“While we are building Topeka’s future, we should stay in tune and touch with the voice of youth,” said Matt Pivarnik, CEO of the Greater Topeka Partnership. “Much of the groundwork we are laying today will benefit them and they should have a seat at the table while their future is being decided. This group of engaged youth will provide vision and direction for community and elected leaders.”
The founding members of the Topeka Youth Commission, adult allies, area superintendents, principals and school counselors encouraged a wide range of students to consider applying to the commission to promote a broad level of diversity and inclusion. Applicants were asked to complete an application, provide a letter of recommendation, attend group interviews and final selections were made by the founding members. Members of the Topeka Youth Commission and TopCity Youth Council will serve an initial 1 to 2 year term on the commission before being eligible for reappointment for additional terms.
Topeka Youth Commission members:
Aden Shute- Washburn Rural High School
Aditi Malay- Washburn Rural High School
Ashten Corber- Highland Park High School
Bryce Liedtke- Shawnee Heights High School
Cally Anderson- Seaman High School
Christian Robinson- Washburn Rural High School
Cleo Foster- Topeka West High School
Eva Noble- Seaman High School
Forest Brungardt- Seaman High School
Irene Caracioni- Topeka High School
Isabelle Hernandez- Topeka High School
Jacob Gernon- Topeka High School
Joseph Phillips- Washburn Rural High School
Karla Navarrete- Washburn Rural High School
Kristen Hines- Shawnee Heights High School
Lillian Holmberg- Topeka High School
LilliAnna Lucio- Highland Park High School
Makenna Orton- Shawnee Heights High School
Nicole Bloomquist- Shawnee Heights High School
Oscar Retana- Highland Park High School
Perla Soto- Highland Park High School
Thorne Osborne- Washburn Rural High School
Vanessa Rias- Highland Park High School
TopCity Youth Council members:
Isabel Hernandez- Junior at Topeka High School, District One
LiliAnna Lucio- Junior at Highland Park High School, District Two
Perla Soto- Senior at Highland Park High School, District Three
Kristen Hines- Junior at Shawnee Heights High School, District Four
Thorne Osborne- Sophomore at Washburn Rural High School, District Five
Irene Caracinoni- Junior at Topeka High School, District Six
Aditi Malay- Junior at Washburn Rural High School, District Seven
Joseph Philips- Sophomore at Washburn Rural High School, District Eight
Jacob Gernon- Junior at Topeka High School, District Nine
The Topeka Youth Commission will meet every fourth Monday of the month from 6-8 p.m. at the Greater Topeka Partnership Offices. The TopCity Youth Council will meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month from 6-8 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.