Philadelphia, PA − June 14, 2021 − Recognizing the urgent need to include Philadelphia youth in conversations about the legislation and initiatives that impact them, State Representative Elizabeth Fiedler (D–Philadelphia) and State Senator Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia) announced the launch of a Student Advisory Council, held monthly with high school–age youth, supported by South and West Philadelphia–based out-of-school time provider, Sunrise of Philadelphia.
“This is a venue for teens to vocalize the challenges that they are facing and an opportunity for them to advocate for legislation that impacts themselves and their families,” said Representative Fiedler. “Engaging with the students in the district about the future they are inheriting is crucial to making legislation representative of all Pennsylvanians.”
“Every person in our Commonwealth has a stake in our government working to meet their needs,” said Senator Saval. “Oftentimes, children are excluded as stakeholders. But our children will build their world on the foundations we set right now, and we need their voices, their energy, and their input.”
Hajra Khan, a 9th grade student at South Philadelphia High School, is one of the students participating in the advisory council. “I am really happy that Senator Saval and State Rep Fiedler are partnering with us,” said Khan. “I feel that it gives me an opportunity to learn more about the state and its laws, and if any student is interested one day in being a part of the government, this is a great opportunity for them!”
The Student Advisory Council is steered by the youth involved, with guidance from the staff of Sunrise of Philadelphia, an organization dedicated to providing meaningful out-of-school time opportunities designed to support youth in discovering their strengths and preparing for their futures. The space of the Student Advisory Council provides young people in South Philadelphia an opportunity to directly shape conversations, processes, and outcomes.
With participation from the state legislators, the Student Advisory Council meetings are an opportunity for the students to share their perspectives on what is important to them and their communities, discuss pending bills and policies, and engage in collaborative problem solving.
“I’m so excited to turn the idea of a Student Advisory Council into a reality for our youth, and very appreciative of Representative Fiedler and Senator Saval for giving them this opportunity,” said Brianna Morales, Site Director at South Philadelphia High School. “We constantly tell our youth that their voices matter, and now they have an opportunity to use their voices to make an impact on decisions affecting their communities.”
“It’s inspiring to hear youth speak directly to our state leaders about the issues that matter most to them,” said Noah Lattanzi, Communications and Outreach Associate for Sunrise of Philadelphia. “There’s something different about hearing directly from youth about their experience around issues like gun violence or immigration in their community that you just can’t get anywhere else. We are thrilled at Sunrise to be able to help our state lawmakers incorporate the youth perspective, and we are proud to be able to provide this unique opportunity to our students!”
Youth advisory councils are widely recognized as an important means of soliciting youth participation, insights, and feedback. The inaugural meeting of the Student Advisory Council was held via Zoom before the end of the school year. The meetings will recess for the summer and resume monthly with the start of the new school year.