Connecting teens to City Hall

One of my goals as Councilor is to inspire our younger generation to be future leaders.  I reached out to West Linn High School to team up with students to help cover events and write about it.  They are my eyes and ears and have a direct link to me.  The relationship has been positive, and the West Linn Tidings wrote about it.  To my knowledge, no previous Councilor has created this link before in West Linn.  Here is the story posted May 9, in the Tidings.

Text of Article:  

Thomas Frank was warned he would be busy when he was elected to the city council in November. And just a few short months into his four-year term that warning came true. Finding it difficult to attend all the events, meetings and activities across the city, and having a hard time saying no, Frank enlisted some help from an unlikely source — the high school.  “I was told early on, ‘You’re going to have a busy schedule.’ It became true,” Frank said. “It was clear very early on there was no way I was going to cover it all.”

Wanting to reach out to the younger sector of West Linn residents, Frank thought of enlisting a few teens to act as his ambassadors.  “I don’t think any councilor has reached out to the high school to create a partnership,” he said.  Frank said he thought teens could learn work experience as well as better understand city government if they worked with a city councilor.  So, he went to the West Linn High School journalism and Advanced Placement government teachers and said, “I have this crazy idea.”

Three teens bit the bait. Madison Staten, Kelsey Douglas and Ashlyn Miller-Sanders all volunteered to join Team Thomas Frank.  Staten and Miller-Sanders, both freshmen, learned of the opportunity through their journalism class.  Staten said she joined because she wanted to help bridge the gap between students at the high school and city government.  “(Teens’) knowledge of what’s going on in their city is important,” Staten said. “I think his idea is innovative.”

Douglas, a junior, heard Frank’s plea for help during her government class and was intrigued.  “I’m coming from a different perspective. I’m interested in politics and government. I was interested in being introduced to local politics,” she said.The idea behind the partnership is that the girls can attend events representing Frank. After talking with people and getting a feel of the event, the girls then write up a short article to post on Frank’s blog.

Recently, Staten attended the White Oak Savanna fun run/walk.  “It was something I wouldn’t have known about,” she said of the event.  Douglas attended the joint town hall meeting hosted by state Sen. Richard Devlin and U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader, which was held at West Linn High School on April 22.  “I like to see what elected officials do and what they are involved in,” Douglas said.  Besides helping him out, Frank thinks the teens are being given access to something he didn’t feel he had as a kid — access to elected officials.

“It’s a great way to give kids access to the council,” he said. Another bonus is, as a councilor, Frank can learn about the issues that concern kids.  “I just really want to get the word out (on) what the issues are … in the city,” Staten said, adding that her communications skills are improving thanks to the new gig. “To a better degree, I’m learning more about people and their passion for the city.”  Though there is no end date for the partnership, both Douglas and Staten plan to work with Frank for as long as they can. In the meantime, Frank hopes other councilors will follow suit.

“I think it would be great if the other councilors got involved. I want to inspire that next generation of leaders. … My hope is I can inspire kids to get involved, to be leaders,” Frank said. “If we build a better partnership with the schools, that would be great too.”  For more information about Frank and to read the teens’ blog entries, visit thomasafrank.com.



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