Philadelphia Youth Commission becomes fully staffed for 1st time since 2016

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker announced the details of her Commission on Youth Engagement Monday as officials say this is the first time since 2016 that the city has had the commission fully staffed.

"This is the Philadelphia Youth Commission, and again I thank you all for coming out this evening," said Shania Bennett as she presented the young people representing districts around the city who were formally appointed at City Hall Monday evening. 

They’re now members of the Mayor's Commission on Youth Engagement.

"I just want to try to do my part in trying to crack down on the violence in our city," said 18-year-old James King, who is the youth commissioner of public safety. 

He is eager to make a difference. He says he lost a friend in the mass shooting last week on July fourth in Kingsessing.

"It hurt me and I hate to see it in the city. I hate that we really can't have fun out here as the youth without having to worry about the violence," said King.

The City Council appointed 17 of the youth members and the mayor appointed four.

"Guess where the best solutions come from? Not the top. They come from the bottom up and that means you," said Mayor Parker to the youth as the audience applauded.

Bennett, who is the director of the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement, led the ceremony.

"This is all about young people, what's fun for them, what brings them joy and what is fun for them in this city that doesn't involve them having to look over their shoulder," she said. Other committees include workforce preparedness and mental health.

20-year-old Nyjah Smith heads health and recreation.

"What we're doing is cool. You don't have to be on the streets. You can be on the commission," she said. 

Nyjah is well-prepared for her new role. She went from a mentee to now a mentor with the Hunting Park-based non-profit As I Plant This Seed, founded by Ryan Harris.

"I saw my mentor go through a lot with the nonprofit and just having that one goal is to make change and help the youth. I seen him do it and it just inspired me to do the same thing," she said of Harris.

Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel is hopeful about the opportunity the youth have.

"If we don't listen to their voice, give them a voice and place to speak, then we're not doing them a service or the city a service. They're the future of our city," said Commissioner Bethel.

The commission also includes five subcommittees.

Anyone in the city ages 12 to 23 years old can join.

They also work on policies relating to issues like year-round schools, safety and rec centers.

Officials say this is the first time since 2016 that the city has had a fully staffed commission of 21 young people who now have a vital role and voice in city government.