Disclaimer: Current student liaison Dhruvak Mirani is a former Diamondback opinion columnist.

The College Park City Council is discussing a plan that would create a youth advisory committee to strengthen city politics engagement among younger residents.

In last Tuesday’s meeting, the city council considered a proposal for a committee composed of eight to 10 city residents attending surrounding high schools. The committee would meet six to 10 times a school year and serve in an advisory capacity for the council on issues impacting the city’s youth.

All College Park students attending a nearby high school would be eligible for committee membership because the city has no high schools within its borders, according to the city’s agenda. The city’s education support specialist could also serve as the staff liaison to the council.

The city council discussed the idea in 2020 and 2022, but all action was postponed due to staffing issues and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Tuesday’s meeting, District 2 council member Llatetra Brown Esters said it will be important for the city council to maintain the committee once it is formed. The efforts will aid in committee recruitment, Esters added.

“All of the work, the effort that goes into creating and building we don’t want it to be lost,” Esters said. “It’s really important that once we get it up and running the recruitment of students on an ongoing basis [is] sustainable.”

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Dhruvak Mirani, the city council’s student liaison, hoped that student liaisons would have a guiding role with any future committee. Involving student liaisons in the committee formation process would foster relationships between high school and University of Maryland students, the sophomore computer science and government and politics major added.

“We see meaningful outcomes very often when we build relationships between the high school students and middle school students and our university students in College Park,” Mirani said in Tuesday’s meeting.

While researching the potential committee, College Park city staff looked at other youth advisory committees in the state, including the Greenbelt Youth Advisory Committee. The Greenbelt committee is composed of seven city residents under 18 and two adult advisors.

In 2018, this committee helped lower the city’s municipal voting age to 16 after a referendum and collaboration with the Greenbelt City Council.

Arsalan Siddiqui, a bioengineering graduate student at this university, served as the Greenbelt Youth Advisory Committee’s chair from 2017 to 2023.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of resources but we did have a lot of help from a lot of other advocacy groups,” Siddiqui said. “[That] was very helpful when we were advocating for this change.”

But District 3 council member John Rigg expressed concerns about whether the College Park committee had a strong enough primary focus.

“I want to make sure that we’re clear on what the purpose of the committee is,” Rigg said in Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s a real opportunity here [and] I just want us to be really disciplined.”

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Grace Minakowski, a junior at Huntingtown High School and the Maryland Youth Advisory Council chair, believes College Park students should determine what the committee’s central mission would be.

The committee’s members should understand why they are forming a committee, issues in their community and changes they want to see, Minkowski added.

Moving forward, Siddiqui said the city could also benefit from a committee for college students in addition to the youth advisory committee.

“A lot of other city councils that are in other college towns and cities typically have that,” Siddiqui said. “There is a senior advisory committee which is also really important, but I think having one for undergraduates and graduates would also be very important.”