This blog post was written by Justin Sherrill, Intern, Mayor’s Internship Program

My name is Justin Sherrill, and I am honored to be writing about my experiences over the past 10 weeks as a participant in the Mayor’s Internship Program. Currently, I am a senior Economics major at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. When I was accepted into the Mayor’s Internship Program I didn’t know what to expect from the experience.

What I didn’t expect was to have such an impactful summer with Philly Counts and the Office of Black Male Engagement. Philly Counts is an office that coordinates community engagement efforts, in addition to connecting resources to underserved neighborhoods. Philly Counts creates material to connect residents to critical resources.  I was able to bring a resource guide to my church on my first day. The Office of Black Male Engagement (OBME) is a commission that works to assist Black men and close the economic disparity they face on a daily basis. While with OBME, I had the opportunity to speak to the boys’ Lacrosse team at Olney High School which was inspiring to hear stories and share mine. Being hands-on in both departments has been an eye-opening experience.

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”, declared former President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he addressed a crowd gathered at the University of Pennsylvania campus (1940).

Almost a century later, this statement is now more important than ever. In order to affect policy, the community must focus on bridging the gap between youth and the government. During my time in the Mayor’s Internship program, I have identified a few ways the youth can connect with their local government:

  1. Vote. In the 2020 Presidential election, only 53% of Philadelphia voters ages 18 – 24 showed up to the polls. As youth, we can be the change we want to see and make a real impact on new policy changes. However, we have to encourage the other 47% to show up and vote.
  2. Did you know that you can call your elected official’s office right now?! If advocacy is important to you, and you feel that an issue needs to be addressed in the community, then call the legislative office and make your voices heard! Their duty as elected officials is to hear your thoughts, inputs, and opinions on various issues. You never know if your call may be the one that pushes an extra vote in a new bill. Also, don’t be afraid to volunteer your time.
  3. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter. We are living in a society where we share information to large groups of individuals at instantaneous speeds. It is time to take advantage and use our platforms to better our communities. For example, you could start a petition through Instagram about getting more trash cans in your neighborhood. Money could even be raised for a cause through Facebook or Youtube donations. Get creative, and use the social media platforms that you already interact with daily!
  4. Peer-to-peer networking is a great way to increase voter turnout, support advocacy causes, and find motivated like-minded individuals. The snowball effect of peer-to-peer networking is what makes one conversation so important. One conversation may lead to the awareness of thousands of individuals or even donations toward a cause. There is strength in numbers and when we use our collective voice we can make a swift change.

As a community, we have to invest in the youth early and show them different avenues while they are still in middle and high school. The City of Philadelphia has shown its commitment to the youth by having the first ever PHL Youth Week and partnering with over 20 youth-led organizations to bring PHL Youth week to the city every August. To learn more about the PHL Youth Week and events check out this article!