About Ellen > Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC)
Goals and Rationale for Creation of the Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC)
Back in 2008, while a state representative in the Colorado legislature, Senator Ellen Roberts sponsored HB08-1157. “There’s no better way to acquaint youth with the importance of finding their voice in representative democracy than to give them that opportunity firsthand.”, according to Rep. Roberts. “Forming a legislative youth council is one way to provide that opportunity and it will also help legislators make better decisions on policies affecting our youth.” Her commitment to authentic youth voice extended to the bill drafting process.
In the fall of 2007, she convened a group of high school students from Cortez, Durango, and Pagosa Springs for meetings to provide input and determine what should be in the bill proposing the official establishment of a statewide youth council for Colorado. From the beginning, young people were instrumental in shaping the Council. In addition, youth from Durango and from the Denver metro area’s Centennial Youth Advisory Council came to the Capitol in March of 2009 to testify on the proposed legislation. The bill was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Ritter on May 29, 2008.
Purpose of the Council
To provide the legislature with feedback, information and advice on how policy issues affect Colorado’s youth.
Structure and Function
The Council is comprised of 40 young people between the ages of 14 and 19, and four nonvoting legislator members; two from each chamber. The Council is required to meet four times per year, with two meetings occurring during the legislative session. Members should represent the diversity of Colorado’s youth, with an effort to ensure adequate rural representation. Members will serve a two-year term, and may be reappointed for a second term. The Council will elect a youth member and legislator to serve as co-chairs.
In addition to the four annual meetings, the Council is required to work with and consult existing state and local youth groups as appropriate, advise the legislature on proposed or pending legislation, use news outlets, public awareness campaigns and a website to facilitate communication, and make an annual report to the legislature.
Colorado is one of ten states that have created legislative youth advisory councils. Maine was the first state to do so, in 2002. The goal of these groups is to give young people a voice in the policymaking process in their states, and to enhance and encourage civic engagement and education among young people. The structure and membership vary somewhat from state to state. In addition, a number of governor’s offices, state agencies, and localities have also created youth advisory councils to provide young people an opportunity to affect policies that influence them.
Always Seeking Youth Leaders!
COYAC members serve two-year terms. That means every year, half of our Council seats are open. While we start our year with a new council in the fall, applications are always welcome and if an opening isn’t available when you apply, we can keep your application on file for future spots.
(You can find a map of the Colorado Senate districts online. You can also figure out your state Senate and House districts by zip code at www.votesmart.org.)
For more information and a link to the application, visit the Civic Canopy website.
Questions? Contact Ana Soler at the Civic Canopy.