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Pierce Strasser represents Evergreen on youth council advising the legislature

Written by Staff Editor on .

Representatives of Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC) delivered their annual policy recommendations on Monday, March 16th at the State Capitol.  Pierce Strasser of Evergreen is one of forty high school students selected to provide input to the State legislature through COYAC.  

COYAC is a vehicle, created by the Colorado State Legislature, to give young people an opportunity to offer first-hand information to our legislators about issues affecting Colorado's youth. It gives young people a voice in the policymaking process and provides an opportunity for students to make recommendations to the Colorado State Legislature.

Since the 2008 legislation that launched COYAC, (Youth Advisory Act in House Bill 08-1157) the mission of the council has been to “Examine, evaluate and discuss the issues, interests and needs affecting Colorado youth now and in the future and to formally advise and make recommendations to elected officials regarding those issues.”

Colorado is one of ten states that have created legislative youth advisory councils. Maine was the first state to do so, in 2002. Forty young people serve on the council, representing Colorado’s thirty-five state senate districts, and five at-large seats to ensure diversity on the council.

The application process for COYAC is open to all Colorado youth between the ages 14 and 19 who are attending a Colorado junior high, middle or high school, including online schools; nonpublic, home-based educational programs; or general equivalency degree programs.

They also must serve a two year term on the council. The COYAC recruitment and membership committee reviews all applications. Applications are then sent to the entire council for approval or denial. Current members live in Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Burlington, Centennial, Clifton, Colorado Springs, Craig, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins, Highlands Ranch, La Junta, Lafayette, Lakewood, Poncha Springs, Superior, and Woodland Park.

The speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives each appoints one member to COYAC, and the president and minority leader of the Senate each appoints one member to COYAC. These four members of the Colorado State Legislature advise the council and particiapate in meetings and discussions with youth members.

The four members include: Andy Kerr, Colorado State Senator for District 22; Tim Dore, Colorado State Representative for House District 64; Brittany Pettersen, Colorado State Representative for House District 28; and Ellen Roberts, Colorado State Senator for District 6.

Members of the Colorado Youth Advisory Council have the unique opportunity to shape Colorado’s future by bringing the voice of youth to the Capitol. Members commit to two-year terms and during that time develop and build a relationship with their Colorado state representative and/or senator, attend all four meetings, and participate in online forums and discussions, conference calls, and other meetings with each other and members of the community.

Each COYAC member serves on two committees: one procedural and one policy. Policy committees fluctuate every year based on subjects that are relevant and timely to youth and the priorities of the state legislature. There are four procedural committees that help COYAC run efficiently and help manage administrative tasks.

There is also an Executive Committee includes Youth Co-Chair, Youth Vice-Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. These positions are voted on by the entire council.

The policy priorities are shaped and decided upon by youth members based on the interests and priorites of their legislators and Colorado youth. This year, council members selected the following four policy areas

  1. K-12 Testing
  2. Colorado’s Water Supply
  3. Public Safety
  4. Access to Mental Health Services

COYAC receives limited funding appropriated by the General Assembly. The cost of the program is approximately $1,000 per member, which helps cover travel to and from Denver, lodging and hospitality, venue, and program-related materials, totaling $40,000 per year.  The majority of funding comes from generous donors and foundations including: Aponté & Busam Public Affairs Consultants; Colorado Association of School Boards; The Colorado Health Foundation; El Pomar Foundation; Goldman, Robbins & Nicholson, P.C.; and Greg Romberg.