The City of Las Animas wants to hear from its younger residents.

At the June 11 meeting of city council, Mayor Jim Collins tasked council members with identifying one person from their respective wards for placement on the youth advisory committee, which will be overseen by Steven Salazar Jr, youth advisor to council. 

The move, which Collins said council had already been contemplating, is based on a similar program being conducted at the state level.

Collins said he also plans to recommend a person to the committee, and he already has someone in mind. There were no spoilers, though: Collins didn't reveal who he was considering for the role.

"I would go to the county commissioners and ask them for a representative, because we have kids that go to school that don't live within city limits," Collins suggested. "That could still be really good advisory to our city, or things that happen to youth within our region that are not necessarily within city limits."

Council members will submit their recommendations at the next city council meeting, scheduled for July 9.

"What we've tried to do now for three years is, ironically ... there is an actual program in the state of Colorado called the Colorado Youth Advisory Council," said Collins. "Amazingly this existed since 2008, and even more amazingly, we actually have a person who represents our region. ... "

Collins said it was too late to get involved in the state program this year, but he wants to get the youth advisory council in working order in preparation not only for the upcoming school year, but for the next chance for youth participants to enter into the Colorado Youth Advisory Council and the Boy's State/Girl's State programs, which aim to train youth ages 14-19 in running a town, county and state.

Council Member David Armstrong energetically encouraged his peers to make their recommendations based on who would be right for the role, and stressed that this was a unique opportunity for Las Animas youth.

"Everything coming from a teacher's perspective: every scholarship application that comes across my desk or any teacher's desk has some part to do with community service," said Armstrong.

Armstrong urged the other council members to keep in mind people who are searching for volunteer hours to punctuate their scholarship applications.

"Make sure that as you're pitching this to the youth you're thinking of getting involved, use that (volunteer hours)," Armstrong said. "That's a huge tool to get kids online for that, and to get a line in for a Light & Power scholarship, and to get a line in for a lot of scholarships that people in this room represent."

Salazar said he got the idea to apply to his current role as youth advisor from his grandfather, Eloy Salazar, a city councilman.

"I thought about it and decided maybe it would be nice to see what goes on in the community and help out a little, too," said Salazar. "So I applied and they took a vote on it and took me in."

Salazar reports to council on high school activities, such as sports events, FFA outings and like things. He said it's an opportunity to get happenings at the school out into the community.

"I like (a youth advisory council) a lot better than just one single person because I hate to speak for all the kids in the community, because that's a lot to speak for.

"Especially since it's a pretty diverse group with low income and different experiences that people have," said Salazar. "It's good that we're going to have a variety of kids lead the council."

cburney@ljtdmail.com