On Friday 29 November more than 100 young people from across Wearside joined together to debate issues that matter to them.
The annual State of the City debate, organised by Sunderland Youth Council (SYC), saw children and young people from the city’s schools and Sunderland College gather to discuss five key issues.
The debate follows the national Make Your Mark ballot, which this year saw a record 10,402 votes cast by Sunderland youngsters. The top votes set the agenda for the debate:
Knife Crime (1,899)
Mental Health (1,419)
Tackling Hate Crime (1,011)
Votes at age 16 (801)
To mark Sunderland's 70 years of twinning with Essen in Germany, a delegation from Essen, including its Lord Mayor Thomas Kufen, were welcomed by the youngsters and joined the Mayor of Sunderland to observe the debate.
In the city debate young people passionately expressed their views and voted to make protecting the environment the priority SYC topic for the year ahead.
SYC, which is supported by Together for Children, the organisation that provides children’s services on behalf of Sunderland City Council, is made up of 15 young people aged 11 to 18.
Chloe Donkin, 16, who studies at St. Anthony's and St. Aidan's Sixth Form and Isabella Johnston, 16, from Durham Sixth Form Centre are both members of SYC. They travelled to Essen in October to speak to young people there about topics that matter to them and share ideas on ways to undertake action.
Isabella said: “It was good to welcome the Essen delegation and we’re all excited to develop plans about how young people can contribute to the environment”.
Jill Colbert, Chief Executive at Together for Children, said: “Enabling young people to have a voice about services that affect them is crucial.
“We’re grateful to the Essen delegation for sharing their experiences. This was a fantastic debate. The young people were confident and their enthusiasm leaves me in no doubt that, with support of partner agencies, we will develop a strong approach to the issue of environment in Sunderland.”
For more information on Youth Parliament please visit www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk and for details of Sunderland Youth Council please go to www.togetherforchildren.org.uk/children-and-young-people/youthgroups