The National League of Cities (NLC) encourages the participation of youth (current high school students) at its annual Congress of Cities in November and its Congressional City Conference in March. At these conferences, youth delegates have the opportunity to learn and share ideas for improving their communities and discuss federal policies that affect their cities and towns. They also learn about NLC's legislative priorities, have the chance to be a part of an important dialogue, and gain information they can use for discussion and action at home.
Through civic engagement opportunities - including attendance at these conferences - young people gain experience; acquire new skills; learn responsibility and accountability; develop a greater sense of confidence, empowerment, and membership; and forge meaningful connections to other youth and adults. Youth are considered full delegates at each conference; they can attend all general sessions and workshops. They and their chaperones (adults who would not ordinarily attend the conference) also receive a discounted conference registration rate of only $110.
Youth Delegate Sessions
NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families sponsors special "youth-only" sessions that provide context to each conference and facilitate networking among youth and local elected leaders from other communities. The sessions typically include an interactive youth delegate orientation lunch at the beginning of each conference, a networking breakfast with youth and elected leaders, and closing lunch session offering opportunities for reflection and development of plans for action upon returning home.
At past conferences, youth delegates have had the opportunity to participate in a Lobbying 101 workshop sponsored by the United States Student Association, learn about youth leadership in New Orleans' recovery following Hurricane Katrina, learn about efforts by their peers to lower the age for voting in local elections and participating as poll workers in all elections, and share their perspectives on education policy with local and federal officials.
All youth delegate sessions focus on ways to improve youth participation in local government through stronger youth councils, appointment of youth to city boards and commissions, and other strategies. The four youth members of NLC's Council on Youth, Education and Families are instrumental in planning these sessions.