Two years after it began, Prairie Village’s Teen Council program appears poised to head in a new direction.
At a City Council meeting earlier this month, founding councilmember Jori Nelson told the governing body that she would not be able to lead the program this coming school year on account of her daughter having recently been diagnosed with cancer. Councilors Serena Schermoly and Andrew Wang volunteered to take over management of the program, with Nelson remaining as a committee member.
Some fellow councilors suggested that the change provided an opportunity to review the program structure and mission. The Teen Council attracted six participants – one from each ward — during its first year. The second year, however, only three participants signed up, and those participants attended city functions less frequently than the first-year participants.
Mayor Laura Wassmer said she was a huge supporter of the program and the idea that there should be an avenue for getting young people interested in public service involved in local government. But she noted that other Johnson County cities with similar programs have a member of city staff assigned to manage and coordinate the Teen Council, ensuring there was a set program schedule and active participation. City staff have indicated that they do not have the bandwidth to manage such a program in Prairie Village unless the council was to reprioritize their other obligations, meaning the program in Prairie Village will have to be run by councilmembers.
A few councilmembers said they felt the teens who participated in the program spent a lot of time sitting through city meetings, and didn’t have many opportunities to actively participate in discussions or interact with councilmembers and staff.
“They’re sitting a lot in meetings observing,” said Sheila Myers. “It would be nice to encourage some form of interaction.”
Schermoly and Wang are set to present their vision for the program to the rest of the council in the coming months.