To combat youth challenges, Long Beach City Council approves proposal for youth development plan

Mac Harris, a youth ambassador for the Long Beach Invest in Youth Coalition, shares a spoken-word poem in the middle of the intersection of Pine Avenue and Ocean Boulevard. (Emma DiMaggio | Signal Tribune)

The plan will work to provide resources pertaining to mental health, housing, transportation, amongst more to the city’s youth, ages 8 to 24.

Long Beach City Council approved and confirmed the proposed citywide Strategic Plan for Youth and Emerging Adults, a plan that’s been in development since 2019, during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Detailed in a presentation given by project collaborators Director Kelly Colopy of Health and Human Services and Parks, Recreation and Marine Director Brent Dennis, the plan will target six defined major goals towards developing and providing resources to city youth.

“The vision for youth is that all youth and emerging adults between the ages of 8 to 24 are healthy and empowered through the necessary resources to develop into their true authentic selves,” Colopy said. “Their statement of possibility is that youth are valued and empowered decision-makers in the city of Long Beach to lead long term change and solutions for the betterment of youth now and future generations.”

The six defined goals will target the challenges noted by the project’s research gathering. They include youth development, physical health, mental health and emotional wellness, planning for the future, community care and social connectedness, housing and transportation.

The plan was a community effort by organizations such as Khmer Girls In Action, Building Healthy Communities Long Beach and the Advancement Project at Cal State Long Beach

The presentation gathered information from the work of 19 youth ambassadors representative of various diverse backgrounds who applied and underwent an interview process to represent their district. It also included input from 787 completed surveys done by Long Beach residents. A majority of which approved of youth investment.

In 2018, youth leaders of the Invest in Youth campaign presented a report to city council addressing the challenges youth face throughout the city which includes access to mental health care, economic and educational opportunities, stable and affordable housing, safe spaces to belong, and stable and affordable transportation.

“It is no secret that our generation has inherited a planet in need of healing,” Martha King, a youth ambassador from District 5, said during public comment. “The young people, who will one day be sitting where you sit in positions of power, deserve to be part of the decision making.” 

The first step for the proposed plan would be to erupt a youth development Office hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services and funded by the Health Department and Fiscal Year 2021 budget. The recently-passed Measure US oil barrel production tax, with its added revenue of 30 cents per barrel, is expected to help fund this program.

Colopy acknowledged that there are various services throughout the city to provide support to the community but acknowledged that these services may be difficult to reach. A youth development office would primarily cater to youths and focus on providing access. 

According to the presentation, there are approximately 130,000 youth between the ages of 5 to 24 across the city. The data indicates a diverse younger generation where 56% are Latino, 16% are white 14% are black and 11% are Asian. A majority of youths live in Central North and West Long Beach—areas where low-income households are predominant. 

In 2019, the council approved a $200,000 budget to develop the framework of this plan to address these issues, a plan that over the course of three years gained the sweeping vote of approval with all city council members.

“It just gives me so much hope to hear all of our young people and the future of our city speak so forcefully about issues that they care about and about putting this plan together,” Mayor Robert Garcia said.

The next Long Beach City Council meeting will occur next Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. via teleconference.

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