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Photo courtesy City of Thousand Oaks
Thursday, June 10, 2021

By Chris Frost

Tri County Sentry

Thousand Oaks-- The city council received its annual report on the Youth Commission on Tuesday, June 8, led off by senior Ivy Schlosser, who graduates Wednesday, June 9.


Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Pena congratulated the graduate and said through Covid-19, she persevered.


"Online schooling is ugh, don't even get me started," she said. "You made it happen, you were resilient, and I know that at Westlake High School, we had, believe it or not, 50 valedictorians."


Schlosser said the commission hosted events and had programs that made a clear impact on the community.


"As determined by the 2020 youth leadership summit and implementation plan," she said. "We had a challenging and exciting year, but we were resilient, adjusted to health orders, and we never canceled a meeting or event. We had outstanding guest speakers at all Livestream meetings on the topics of college planning, general plan, environmental education, transportation, inclusion, school safety, mental health, teen scams, and vaping. At every meeting, we had school representatives from CVUSD schools and local private schools."


In 2021, she said the commission had the opportunity to participate in committees and provide input on two large city projects.


"The climate action plan and the Thousand Oaks general plan amendment, 2045," she said. "As you know, we have been hosting a dance for our peers with different abilities since 1974," she said. "This year, our committee chair created and hosted a party in a bag luau and virtual dance. Participants picked up a bag of luau decor at the drive-thru, and DJ Slick hosted a Zoom dance. Commissioners, staff, and guests danced for over 1.5 hours and had time to chat after the party. It was a wonderful experience, even though it was not in person."


The group has been giving youth recognition awards since 1980, and in 2021, they had 110 nominations.


"We streamlined the process and ranking system and honored 10 top winners," Schlosser said, "We delivered the awards to each of the nominators who arranged to be with the nominees during the Zoom presentation with the mayor. They were also honored in the Acorn newspaper. 


Based on feedback from the 2020 youth leadership summit, she said the commission created implementation sub-committees. Sub-committees each met independently and created events and action plans."


Commissioner Shaylee McKeown said the mental health and vaping committee focused on mental health awareness and e-cigarette disadvantages. 


"The subcommittee partnered with the local non-profit, BRITE, building resilience and inclusion through engagement, presented at our December 2, Livestream meeting," she said. "Working with BRITE, the group decided that a virtual scavenger hunt simulation, which includes educational opportunities at each step, is the best choice for the target audience of elementary students. BRITE has implemented the virtual reality scene into the exposition of behavioral health. I chaired the school safety team with the assistance of Commissioner Milton. The main goal was to help youth understand the importance and awareness of practicing school safety and make our students feel safer in learning environments."


Thousand Oaks Police Chief, James Fryhoff, was invited to have an open dialogue meeting with the youth commission and community students about overall community safety. 


"The main project was writing an article using information from officials in the community, McKeown said. "I interviewed Chief Fryhoff and Doctor Hyack, the deputy superintendent of the Conejo Valley Unified School District. The article was published in the Acorn in April and sent to high schools to be shared with their students."


Commissioner Mekari led the recreation and inclusion team, and although it was challenging, McKeown said they figured out a way to engage students.


"They worked with the CRPD Therapeutic Unit to host a program for some of their participants to be involved in creating marketing pieces for events," she said. They decorated spaces, took pictures, and came up with the flyer for the therapeutic dance."


Commissioner Catherine Xi led the environmental sub-committee, McKeown said, and the primary topic was climate change, focusing on environmental issues.


"They are providing youth with the resources to take action," McKeown said. "This sub-committee created instructional videos that focused on environmental topics like repurposing. The committee worked with elementary school STEM teachers to distribute this video to a larger youth audience. Educating youth at a young age is crucial to the future. The committee also co-sponsored a TED-x countdown event called TED-x Thousand Oaks. This focused on empowering youth in the community with resources to take action in combatting the climate crisis."


Xi said throughout the year, they continued their partnership with the general planning committee. The staff participated in a March 4, forum and 50 youth attended and provided feedback for the land-use survey.


"The commission also heard reports from me about the climate action plan," she said. "The commission has been interested in being more civically engaged and provide input on legislation and projects that affect youth. In the past three years, during my term, we’ve had the opportunity to be engaged in regional youth discussions with the National League of Cities."


After the report, Bill-de la Pena congratulated the commission on a wonderful conclusion to the school year.


"If you can pass through this pandemic with flying colors, I think your future is super bright," she said to Schlosser. "Thank you for your contribution to the Youth Commission."