On Tap to Success

 

Jonathan Cabral, Multifamily Operations Officer III, CT Housing Finance Authority

On February 22nd I had the pleasure of being a panelist at the joint HYPE/YES event “Boards and Commissions on Tap” at the City Steam Brewery. The event was meant to encourage more local and community involvement by getting young people interested in joining their local municipality’s boards or commissions. I was asked to be a panelist due to my involvement in the Parks & Recs Advisory Commission for the City of Hartford, which I joined after being involved in a dispute with the city over a pickup game at Bushnell Park. For me, joining the commission was a way to help keep our parks active while protecting and encouraging open play.

What immediately struck me when arriving at City Steam was the number of folks who were at the event. It was fantastic to see so many young people who wanted to be more involved in their communities by volunteering their time to tackle the issues that are important to them. 

The event kicked off with opening remarks by YES Co-Chair Diana Deng and HYPE Deputy Director Kim Lundy, who both spoke about the importance of young people being engaged in their community. This was followed up by Christine Schilke, Co-Chair of YES, who introducing both Mayor Luke Bronin of Hartford and Mayor Dan Drew of Middletown. It was exciting to hear these two mayors speak about their own experiences and the importance of having young people active in the civic process. Both Mayor Bronin and Mayor Drew shared different ways young people can be more involved, from writing blogs and using social media to help inform and educate people on topics and issues, to attending and being more involved in entities like Neighborhood Revitalization Zones (NRZs).

Next was the panelist portion of the evening moderated by Randal Davis, a YES Statewide Steering Committee member.  Randal introduced the four panelists: Nick Pinto, Vice Chair of HYPE’s Civic Engagement Committee; Jonathan Slifka, the Governor’s Liaison to the Disability Community in West Hartford; Windsor’s Deputy Mayor and Town Council member Judy Terranova; and me.  All panelists shared their own stories on why they got involved and what they’ve experienced in their roles. The panelists felt that it’s important for young people to seek the board or commission that interests them and noted that there generally seems to be a lack of representation from young people on boards and commissions.

There were great and interesting questions from the attendees, including a question about the time that needs to be devoted to the commission. The panel agreed that it depends on the commission, but that generally it’s the time you give up by attending meetings. My experience also includes on occasion having to read reports and plans drafted by city staff, which is shared well in advance of any meeting.

Probably my favorite question of the night came from someone who was interested in joining a commission but who may not have the “professional” experience that they thought would be required. I shared with the audience that I really did not have any experience or real knowledge of Hartford Parks before starting on the commission on which I serve.  What I and the other panelists noted is that bringing your energy and enthusiasm to the role is more important than having “professional” experience.

The event was a success and a great experience for me. It was really encouraging to see a room so full of young people interested in being involved in their communities!  I hope in the coming weeks and months I get to hear from attendees who have joined boards and commissions in their towns! 

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