Taylorsville Youth Council visits Utah’s Capitol Hill
State Representative Jim Dunnigan (tallest) is surrounded by members of the Taylorsville Youth Council. City council members Dama Barbour and Kristie Overson (left) joined them for a trip to Utah’s Capitol Hill. (Taylorsville City)
Gallery: Taylorsville Youth Council visits Utah’s Capitol Hill [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
Taylorsville City was well represented at this year’s annual Local Officials Day at the Legislature, Jan. 25, sponsored by the Utah League of Cities and Towns. In addition to an array of the city’s office holders, members of the Taylorsville Youth Council also visited to observe how things work at the legislature and to hear from a pair of world-renowned guest speakers.
“I love learning about government,” said sophomore Aaron Tibbitts. “That’s my favorite part of youth council, so getting to visit the capitol was great.”
The youth council is comprised of 16 students. All but one attended Local Officials Day, which began bright and early with a mock debate. The most experienced member of the council—Taylorsville High School senior Cole Arnold—presented a bill advocating mandatory drug testing for all high schoolers involved in extracurricular activities.
“There were hundreds of students and adult advisers at the mock debate,” Cole said. “A few years ago, I would have been too nervous to talk, but youth council has helped me come out of my shell. I now feel much more comfortable talking to people.”
This was Cole’s fourth trip to the annual Day at the Legislature.
Taylorsville City Council Coordinator Kris Heineman serves as the youth council adviser. She says there are about 75 similar councils across the state, each made up of high school students.
“These kids represent the best part of being a teenager,” Heineman said. “They are the cream of the crop, excel in serving the community and are awesome to watch.”
After the mock debate and a tour of the state capitol, the Taylorsville students heard from guest speaker Derreck Kayongo.
Born in Uganda—and later becoming a refugee in Kenya—Kayongo established the “Global Soap Project” in 2009. On his first day in America, Kayongo awoke in a hotel room to see “more soaps than I had ever seen for one person: hand soap, face soap, body soap, shampoo and others.”
After learning all the partially used soap was simply thrown away, Kayongo and his wife established their charity project to collect and repurpose soap, for donation to countries in need.
“His (Kayongo’s) message was, ‘We can all make a positive change with one good idea,’” said Taylorsville Youth Council Chair Shelby Handy. “He was very inspiring.”
A Taylorsville High School senior, Shelby says she wishes she had joined the youth council earlier, and now plans to study political science in college.
After hearing from Kayongo, youth council members traveled to the Salt Palace Convention Center, where lunch and another guest speaker awaited them.
A huge audience of youth council members from across the state was greeted by Gov. Gary Herbert at the luncheon. Later, they heard from Aron Ralston, the man who became trapped in Canyonlands National Park in 2003 and had to sever his own arm with a pocket knife after it became pinned under a fallen boulder. His harrowing experience was made famous in the movie “127 Hours.”
“His message was to never give up—never lose hope,” youth council member Angelique Canepari said. “It was moving and motivating.”
Angelique, a THS junior, said her membership on the youth council has helped her develop more leadership skills and stronger trust in others.
The students also met with Taylorsville State Rep. Jim Dunnigan and Sen. Wayne Harper.
“I loved seeing how government works for the people,” sophomore Lucas Carpenter said. “It was cool to see how they address so many different issues.”
The Taylorsville Youth Council performs several community service projects throughout the year. They were also in charge of decorating the oversized Christmas tree at the city office. In addition to Heineman, City Councilwoman Kristie Overson also helps coordinate their many activities. From March 9 to 11, they will participate in a leadership conference at Utah State University.