CENTRAL FALLS — At 33 years old, most would consider Mayor James A. Diossa to be young for his post. But Diossa knows that the life of a teenager is miles apart from the life he leads now, or even the life he had when he was in high school about 15 years ago.
Diossa recently introduced the Mayor’s Youth Council, swearing in five teenagers who will learn about city government while providing city officials with a young person’s insight on how to improve the city.
“I thought it would be a unique experience and I think a learning experience for me and for the students to be able to interact and share ideas, listen to concerns, and I can only imagine what the impact would have had on my life if I had monthly meetings with the mayor to channel my concerns and thoughts on the city,” Diossa said.
“I told these students they become ambassadors because they’ll have first-hand information to be able to communicate with their peers about what the city’s doing, the issues. So I think it’s a win-win for everyone,” he continued.
The five 16-year-old high school juniors who were sworn into the Youth Council last week were Todd Deslauriers, Jacqueline Jimenez, Janelie Ordonez, Josaline Pineda, and Lorraine Quintero. The five in the committee were recommended by teachers after applying for a seat on the council.
“We were lucky to be able to find candidates that said yes to the challenge,” the mayor said.
“As much as I brag that I am young, being 33 years old, I know that life for a 16- or 17- or 18-year-old is much different than mine and my life at that age,” Diossa said. “Learning about their interests, their ideas, the topics that are present in conversations with their peers, I think I’d learn a lot from that.”
“There’s been times where I’ve been taken aback by some of their comments or thoughts around particular issues. That allows me to understand them better and also allows me to hopefully be present that someday one of them could run for mayor or City Council,” Diossa added.
The Mayor’s Youth Council met for the first time last Wednesday and will continue to meet every other week. Additionally, the group will visit various branches of government and municipal offices, interacting with Public Works officials and Central Falls Police next month. The students will hold a “Debate Day” in April, during which they’ll act as the City Council and vote on ordinances, and will visit the Statehouse in May.
Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter: @J_Bissonnette