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Posted on: October 21, 2021

Mayor Lee Harris' Update on Shelby County's Youth Leadership

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Our administration has worked hard to include the voices of Shelby County's young people. These young people have used their voices to offer creative solutions on issues impacting their generation and all of our county's residents. We are a better place because of their time, talent, and service.

COVID-19 Community Council

Recently, high school members of our COVID-19 Community Council helped craft a public service announcement to encourage vaccinations for young people. The teenage council members co-wrote, co-produced, and starred in the PSA that focused on the consequences of not being vaccinated. The council members also helped promote their message at the Memphis/Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force Press Conference and in interviews with local news outlets. We need to listen to these young people and get vaccinated.

The youth members of the COVID-19 Community Council wrote and starred in a vaccine public service announcement.

Countywide Juvenile Justice Consortium

Additionally, I appointed Zahra Chowdhury, a senior at Pleasant View High School, to the Countywide Juvenile Justice Consortium. We believe she is the first person under 18 to ever to be appointed to a Shelby County board. The Consortium is made up of advocates and experts and serves as a bridge between families that have had contact with the juvenile justice system and Juvenile Court. For Zahra, this kind of work is her passion. She has already started a juvenile justice reform advocacy group at her school, has focused her interest on the school-to-prison pipeline, and is one of the young members of the advisory board for the Shelby County Youth Assessment Center. Zahra is exactly who we need to bring a fresh perspective to big issues impacting youth.  

Shelby County Youth Council

Also, two years ago we joined with youth from Bridges to start the Shelby County Youth Council, which gives our county's youth a voice and a platform for influence. Two young people from each of the 13 County Commission districts make up the council members. This summer, the Shelby County Youth Council released “The Shelby County Youth Voice Report” for 2020-2021, a document that gives their input on mental and physical health, education, school counselors, law enforcement in schools, and solutions for youth criminal justice reforms.

Mayor Harris with Youth Council

Mayor Lee Harris with the Shelby County Youth Council.

Mayor's Summer Work Experience Program

Finally, we launched the Mayor's Summer Work Experience in 2019. With some changes, we have continued the program throughout the pandemic. We gave the young participants real jobs across County Government and with a local nonprofit partner, the YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South. The participants earned $12 an hour, contributed to Shelby County's COVID response, and grew their professional networks. Some have continued in full-time employment with the county.

I believe that investing in our community's youth is an investment in our greatest asset. I can't think of a better way to show that to our young people than by including their voices. We are made stronger because of them.


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