The first requirement to serve on any Westport board or commission is clear: You must be a registered voter.
There is one exception: The Westport Youth Commission.
That makes sense: Half of the 30 members can’t vote. They’re still high school students.
The Youth Commission has a low-key presence. That’s surprising. It’s been around since the 1970s; it was the impetus for creations like Toquet Hall and the Compo Beach Skate Park, and it organizes popular events like Dodge-a-Cop, bringing teens and police officers together.
(Full disclosure: Way back in my Staples High School days I served on what was then called the Youth-Adult Council; later, as an adult, I spent a decade on the Youth Commission.)
As the Commission gears up for a new school year, incoming chair Cabry Lueker hopes to raise its presence in town.
His path to leadership was swift. His extracurricular activities are diverse — he started Staples’ Finance Club, is a member of the Up Next service organization, and is very involved in WWPT-FM and the television program. Last year he heard about the Youth Commission last year from a friend.
Cabry attended the first meeting of the year, at Toquet Hall. He was impressed to see all the members facing each other — not sitting in a row, as at many town commission sessions.
Alex Laskin and Carolyn Caggiano ran the meeting, as the teen leaders always do. Everyone offered opinions. Cabry was encouraged to speak too.
He learned about Youth Commission initiatives like iMentor, a 6th grade internet safety program.
He became a regular member. A year later, he’s president.
Cabry has several goals. Having enjoyed being an iMentor. He’d like to expand it to 8th graders, with an emphasis on teaching about “digital footprints” (including implications for college admissions).
He’d like to resurrect a long-discussed project — mini-golf — through discussions with the Parks & Recreation Department. He hopes the Youth Commission can work with Parks & Rec and Staples’ Skate Club too to renovate the Skate Park.
The Compo Beach Skate Park began as a Youth Commission initiative. (Photo/Larry Silver)
Cabry wants to raise the Youth Commission’s visibility too. He encourages all students to attend meetings, citing his own path beginning as a non-voting member.
There are a couple of vacant seats for adults, he notes. Meetings are held once a month, evenings at Toquet Hall.
There are 2 sub-committees: Peer Advisory (dealing with iMentor, mental health, police-youth relations and more) and Town Improvements (Skate Park, mini-golf, etc,).
Working closely with adults has been beneficial, Cabry says. He has learned about marketing and finance — their day jobs — from fellow members. People like Lee Shufro and Adam Chusid have gone “above and beyond” to help.
Youth Commission group photo, from several years ago.
“People think government is inefficient,” Cabry says. “But if you get involved actively, you can get things done.” He and vice chair Lola Lamensdorf are open to all suggestions.
“The whole premise of the Youth Commission is to bring youth and adults together, with youth representing their peers.
“It’s a privilege to live here. Other towns have Youth Commissions too. But I don’t think the others have the advantages we do, or work as thoroughly.”
He cites Dodge-a-Cop and Corn-a-Cop — 2 youth/police initiatives (dodgeball and cornhole, respectively) — as examples of close relationships forged through the Youth Commission.
A Dodge-a-Cop team, with actual police officers on the far left and right.
Now as chair, Cabry says, “I want to make sure everyone in Westport knows what we do, and knows they can help.”
(The first Youth Commission meeting of the 2023-24 school year is August 31, 7:15 p.m. at Toquet Hall. It is open to the public. Click here for the Youth Commission website.)
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