The Harry Barovksy Memorial Youth Commission, created in 1999 by the Malibu City Council, was developed to provide young people in the community with a platform to make recommendations to the council on matters concerning the city’s programs and projects that are structured to serve them and their families.
“The commission is a Brown Act body made up of 25 commissioners in Grades 7 through 12 that live or go to school within city limits,” explains Katie Gallo, the commission’s recreation supervisor and recording secretary. “The youth commission grants its members with the authority to assist in implementing quality programs and community service projects.”
In the past 19 years, the commission has grown from eight to 25 appointments because of the increased number of proactive and engaged youth in the community. The commission has hosted several events, including the Battle of the Bands, Malibu Art & Music Festival, “CineMalibu” Movie in the Park, Start Smart Driving Courses, Malibu Teen Film Festival and college application workshops to promote engagement for teens in the Malibu community.
These young members have had a tremendous positive impact over the years. Most recently, the commission redesigned their city council assignments to best serve the community as part of the City of Malibu’s efforts to offer support and resources to residents impacted by the devastating Woolsey Fire.
“Not all of the rebuilding of Malibu following the Woolsey Fire will consist of bricks and concrete; hearts and minds have to heal as well,” emphasizes Gallo, noting that in June 2018, the City Council tasked the Youth Commission with providing 30 hours of volunteer service and cosponsoring six community service projects that benefit nonprofit organizations. To that end, the commission incorporated innovative forms of community service to provide support to nonprofit organizations related to the Woolsey Fire and achieve their City Council-related goals.
For instance, after the Woolsey Fire, to promote environmental stewardship and the preservation of marine life, the commission partnered with the nonprofit organization, Heal the Bay, to perform beach clean-ups at Surfrider Beach and Zuma beaches. As part of this effort, teen volunteers picked up 1,456 pieces of debris and catalogued everything they collected to be entered in the Heal the Bay Marine Debris Database, an online record of trash and other debris removed from the beaches by volunteer groups.
To support day laborers who lost wages or their homes, the commission hosted a canned food drive to benefit the Malibu Community Labor Exchange, a community-created nonprofit organization that provides an organized and supportive place for the people of Malibu to hire and be hired, creating opportunities for the unemployed to build independence and self-sufficiency through work.
“Following the success of the canned food drive, the commission hosted a collection drive of blankets and towels to benefit the local Los Angeles County Animal Shelter,” says Gallo, adding that 45 blankets and towels were collected to increase the quality of life and welfare of homeless and abandoned animals.
To benefit Malibu’s most vulnerable population, the commission hosted a toiletries collection drive, in which more than 200 toiletry items were collected and donated to The People’s Concern, a nonprofit which assists individuals who are chronically homeless, dealing with severe mental or physical illness or substance addiction, victims of domestic violence and challenged youth.
“Lastly, to provide teens an outlet for their own stress and trauma, and further promote physical fitness and mental wellness, the commission also hosted an event for local Malibu youth,” says Gallo, adding that the commission partnered with Malibu businesses, Pure Barre and 5-Point Yoga, to offer a complimentary fitness, yoga and meditation class to help positively affect the health and wellness of their peers.
“All of the projects completed by the Youth Commission were community service-based with no fiscal impact,” Gallo says. “With these projects, thousands of pieces of trash were removed from Malibu beaches, local homeless were provided toiletry care packages, labor workers were provided food, and animals were shown kindness and compassion. Throughout the 2018-2019 term, the Harry Barovksy Memorial Youth Commission helped strengthen the community, foster healing, environmental consciousness and promote restoration.”
In other endeavors, following the fire, the commission hosted a Youth Government Summit with local dignitaries and leaders from California State Senator Henry Stern’s Office, former Malibu City Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board Member Craig Foster and AmeriCorps Program Manager Amber Gibson to discuss current trends in politics, nonprofit organizational leadership, civic involvement and local community issues.
Each year, Gallo asks the current appointees what their personal goals are for serving on the Youth Commission, and what they hope to achieve and gain through their service.
“Common answers are ‘team building,’ ‘environmental stewardship,’ ‘learning about local government,’ ‘developing leadership skills,’ ‘public speaking experience’ and ‘community service learning and volunteering,’” Gallo says. “The ultimate goal is for youth to feel involved in their local government and to know their voice matters to their local officials.”
For more information, visit MalibuCity.org