Youth Leaders Reflect on the 2019 Congressional City Conference

This is a guest post written by Barry Dechtman, Ivanna Fregoso, Su Bin Chang, and Esmeralda Aquilar, members of the NLC youth delegates program

We were proud and excited to be among the 181 strong youth leaders from 35 cities across the country who came together at the 2019 Congressional City Conference.

The youth delegate program at National League of Cities (NLC) conferences helps advocates by successfully encapsulating the idea of youth voice. Youth leaders worldwide are starting to lead and inspire local, regional and national change. There’s no limit to where their influence spreads, and this year’s Congressional City Conference was no exception.

International and National Youth Advocacy

One of the most impactful sessions for us was “Pooling the Power of Youth Voice in the U.S. and Internationally.”  Leaders from several national and global agencies and organizations introduced youth to opportunities for engagement. Our peers left the workshop more knowledgeable about national and global involvement, and it was a privilege to interact with such avid leaders.

Youth leaders met with U.N.-Habitat representative Ahmet Sogutkas, Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen, Chair of the Interagency Working Group for Youth Programs Cheri Hoffman, and Ambassador Jennifer Galt of the U.S. Department of State.

Youth Lead on Key Social Issues

During the conference, youth delegates discussed social issues concerning their cities while sharing initiatives and projects to take back home. Youth chose to focus discussions on youth mental health, educational equity, school safety, climate change, voting access, marijuana legalization, equal opportunities for members of the LGBTQ+ community, mass incarceration and school safety.

During the program, delegates listened to a panel of federal officials including: Maisha Meminger from the Department of Labor, Lee Tanner from the Environmental Protection Agency, Denisha Merriweather from the Department of Education, Tia Renier from AmeriCorps, and Anstice Brand from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This panel was a great platform for youth delegates to understand the purpose of federal agencies and ask questions about issues concerning them.

Youth Usage of Data and Social Media

During this portion of the youth delegate program, youth created a mock social media page and identified how data could be used as an advocacy tool. The purpose of this workshop was to create a better foundation to properly advocate projects and receive the support we need to create change.

This year’s Congressional City Conference Youth Delegate Program was a success, and we eagerly await the upcoming City Summit in San Antonio, Texas.

NLC encourages the participation of current high school students at both its annual Congress of Cities in November and its Congressional City Conference in March.

About the Authors:

Barry Dechtman is a junior at East High School in Denver. He is an accomplished saxophonist and state champion tennis player. Barry also serves as the chair on the Denver Mayor’s Youth Commission.



Ivanna Fregoso Frias is a junior in high school and the accomplished captain of her debate team.



Su Bin Chang is a junior at BASIS Peoria, secretary of the Buckeye, Ariz. Youth Council, and a research intern at University of Ariz.’s NeuroTrauma Laboratory.


Esmeralda Aquilar is a junior in high school from Austin, Texas.