Youth of Coventry members feel their voices aren't being heard
When Nora Eagen, head of Youth of Coventry, heard that the City of Cleveland Heights was planning to start a Youth Advisory Commission, she was concerned that the city's idea was too similar to her group's mission.
Eagan believes that the Youth Advisory Commission's purpose "mirrored that of Youth of Coventry" and that they should have been consulted before the city decided to form the commission. Eagan, a Hawken School junior and a Cleveland Heights resident, said Youth of Coventry's purpose is to get youth of Cleveland Heights involved in city politics and improve their community. She addressed City Council at its March 4 meeting about her concerns. “We deserve to considered, not pushed to the side,” she said.
Youth of Coventry registered with the state of Ohio in 2011. Its first project was to try to find a better solution to the curfew in Coventry Village. The group has held concert fundraisers, helped with the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park cleanup, and participated in garden and mural projects. One of its most successful projects to date has been after-school study tables at the Lee Road Library, a common destination for elementary school children throughout Cleveland Heights. On Wednesdays, from 4 to 6 p.m., Youth of Coventry members are available to help elementary school students with their homework and provide snacks.
Youth of Coventry has about 20-30 members and meets every two to three weeks. Most of its members attend Cleveland Heights High School, though several local private schools are represented. Seven members hold official positions. Council Member Bonnie Caplan is the advisor. She said that while she supervises and facilitates, the group created its mission and bylaws on its own.
Caplan was the only member of council to vote against the formation of the Youth Advisory Commission on Jan. 7. “I do wish that some of the groups that had been active in the community [Youth of Coventry and the Heights Boys and Girls Club] had been brought in for a discussion about how to put this together,” she said. "Whenever a new group starts, (those starting it) should talk to those involved in similar projects."
Jason Stein, who spearheaded the idea of the Youth Advisory Commission, said he had not heard much from Youth of Coventry in recent months. Although he couldn’t recall any of the applicants listing Youth of Coventry on their application, he said, “Many listed youth groups, such as Open Doors and Project Build.”
Simone Quartell, a Heights High graduate, is a student at Cleveland State University and a Heights Observer intern.