Hailey Rawson had one eye-opening experience after another keeping up with Ward 3 City Councilman Larry McAtee for a year as a part of Youth Council of OKC.
It was 2005, and the Oklahoma City high school senior was an early recruit of Youth Council of OKC, a leadership program developed to help young leaders learn more about how their city operates and what it takes to serve its residents.
“He would bring us along and introduce us … and let us know what was going on and impacting his citizens at the time, which was a very unique position for a senior in high school to see,” Rawson told Oklahoma Gazette in her office at City Hall.
Rawson said that, as a teenager, she took for granted things like “how water gets to your house or how the road gets repaired.”
The biggest surprise to her during the program was seeing “how involved [the] community was.”
Today, she is an attorney and assistant municipal counselor for the City of Oklahoma City. She works on trusts, utilities and finance.
Rawson said she has been interested in practicing family law as long as she can remember, even in elementary school. But she shifted her focus to government because of her experience in Youth Council.
Youth Council is a leadership development program in which selected youth leaders meet once a month during the school year to focus on different wards under the tutelage of Oklahoma City Council members and the mayor, said Amber Shelton, Leadership Oklahoma City director.
Students also shadow particular commissions and committees to give them greater insight into the complexities of city government.
Leadership OKC picks up two students from each of the eight city wards, and two others are selected “at large” from a pool of applicants. To be considered, students must maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average, submit a letter of recommendation and demonstrate an interest in government and community service.
The 2015-’16 Youth Council of OKC class of 18 launched with a flurry of activities in late August, including lunching with the mayor and city council and meeting with many others involved in city government.
Team-building was a key focus on that first weekend as students got acquainted in preparation for the year’s activities.
Youth Council of OKC is only one part of the city’s larger Youth Leadership Exchange intended to develop leadership within the high school youth population. Its two other programs are Leadership Skills and Youth in Action.
Leadership Skills takes students who have been recommended by school counselors and helps them build upon leadership aptitude and develop related skills.
Shelton said that Youth in Action “is essentially a type of foundation” that helps students learn how to raise money for important philanthropic causes.
Youth Council of OKC is funded by the City of Oklahoma City.
Print Headline: Leadership roles, Youth Council of OKC earns an up-close education about city government.