Zionsville’s Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council: Empowering Future Leaders

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March/April 2024

This month, we are pleased to feature ZCHS sophomore and Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council President Noah Alt, along with Mayor John Stehr, on our cover.

Mayor Stehr established the town’s first Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) upon taking office in January. The purpose of MYAC is to empower high school students residing in Zionsville by actively involving them in local community affairs. Stehr expressed that this endeavor underscores his dedication to engaging with the younger generation and providing them with a platform to express their thoughts and ideas.

The mayor appointed Mary Grabianowski, a former government teacher at Zionsville Community High School and a member of Zionsville Plan Commission, as the council’s advisor. Deputy Mayor Kate Swanson also provides instrumental guidance and advisory support to the MYAC.

Engaging the Community’s Youth

MYAC convenes every month, focusing on educational activities, leadership development and fostering civic engagement.

“I think one of the things we should be doing in municipal government is having an eye on the future, the next generation, and the town that the [next generation] is going to inherit from us,” Stehr said. “The best way to be engaged with that is to get the young people involved and to hear what they have to say, what they want, and what they desire.”

John Stehr Zionsville’s Mayor

The mayor has found this inaugural youth council to be remarkably impassioned for the continued prosperity and future of their community.

“Frankly, I have been surprised at how engaged they are and how interested they are in municipal government,” Stehr expressed. “They are taking this advisory [council] seriously and they have voices that deserve to be heard. Since we started mid-school year, we only have this council for another couple of months before graduation, so I think it’s important that we get together on a service project—which [MYAC] already discussing—and [MYAC] also going to make a presentation to the town council before this session breaks. Next August or September, we will have MYAC line up with the school year and will choose the next council at that time, and the next MYAC session will run through May of the following year. While I appreciate the [ZCS] school district being a partner in this, I’d like for all Zionsville high schoolers to know that MYAC is open to them whether they go to private schools or are homeschooled. We have such talented and bright kids here … I sincerely admire and appreciate them.”

When asked why it is important for the young citizens to not only feel that they are engaged but are truly being seen and heard by the community, Stehr replied, “This is a talent pool that we want to eventually come back to Zionsville. If they don’t feel that they were ever part of the community and have an invested interest in Zionsville, why would they want to come back?”

Applauding the Rise of Future Community Leaders

MYAC President Noah Alt shared that he is the oldest of eight children in his family. Alt has resided in Zionsville since age three and has attended ZCS schools since eighth grade. He is active in football and lacrosse and is passionate about his faith, family, community and politics. Alt also shared that he is interested in the sciences and has an “affinity towards medicine.”

“I have always had an interest in politics,” Alt said. “I think it is super important, no matter what side you are on, to know what you’re voting for—or the lack thereof if you choose not to vote. I think policies and politics matter because people matter. I am also the class president of my grade [sophomore] and I love making sure that change is happening. So, when I saw the opportunity to join MYAC, I thought it was a great opportunity for me to help make sure that the young citizen voices in Zionsville are being heard. I’m so grateful that God has given me this opportunity to lead in this way, and making sure that my peers’ voices are being heard is so important.”

Zionsville's Mayor's Youth Advisory Council

Alt stated that MYAC currently has 20 members and typically meets once a month with the mayor and deputy mayor. The MYAC leadership meets with Deputy Mayor Swanson and plans the following month’s meeting and any activities or service projects between MYAC meetings. Members of MYAC will also meet with the department heads to gain a better understanding of each department’s roles and duties.

Alt also discussed the council’s upcoming community beautification project and how he has enlisted the help of ZCHS students in addition to MYAC members.

“The service project that we’ve decided on is a cleanup [project] on Main Street,” Alt said. “We will be painting the light posts, sweeping the sidewalks, and planting flowers.”

Looking ahead to the immediate future of MYAC, Alt stated that one of the advisory council’s goals is to establish connections with local and state elected representatives. This initiative aims to provide opportunities for members to shadow these officials, gaining insight into their duties and responsibilities. Additionally, it seeks to foster a broader understanding of how local and state governments operate and collaborate.

Be sure to keep an eye out for announcements this summer from the Town of Zionsville for enrollment in MYAC before the start of the next school year.

MYAC’s Executive Leadership

MYAC President Noah Alt proudly represents the council along with his fellow MYAC officers:

MYAC Vice President Aiden Cope, grade 12. A follower of Christ and a member of Best Buddies, he loves politics. Cope plans to attend Hanover College, major in political science, and play baseball.

MYAC Secretary Parker Coyle, grade 11. President of PUENTES (a club that aims to support communities in Latin America; ~$2,000 raised for schools in rural Honduras; -$2,500 raised for a service trip to Guatemala), played basketball freshman/sophomore year, tutors Spanish I-IV and physics, and likes to code in his spare time. Coyle plans on majoring in computer science.

MYAC Communications/Social Media Director Emma Vargo, grade 11. She is the team captain for Zionsville varsity softball, an officer for Best Buddies, and part of Key Club, Operation Honduras (PUENTAS) and Unified Basketball. Vargo plans to attend Indiana University and major in political science and communication.