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Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll stand with the administration’s Youth Advisory Council after a swearing-in ceremony on Beacon Hill.
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Gov. Maura Healey swore in the members of her administration’s Youth Advisory Council on March 25.

The council’s Executive Committee comprises 60 people between the ages of 16 and 21, who represent every area or the state. In a press release regarding the council, the Healey administration stated that the council, whose members will serve for a two-year term, is racially and gender diverse, as well as inclusive of LGBTQ+ community members.

The body’s Executive Committee will host listening sessions and working groups, develop initiatives and meet with Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll each quarter to discuss issues facing the state, such as civic engagement, education, climate, housing, mental health and youth violence, and deliver their recommendations.

“Every day, our administration is making policy decisions that have a significant impact on the lives of young people for generations to come. Now, through this advisory council, they will have a direct say in their futures,” said Healey. “We hear from young people all the time about the issues that matter to them most — everything from climate, to education, to mental health, to gun violence. I look forward to working with each and every single member as we work together to make Massachusetts more affordable, competitive and equitable for all.”

Similarly, Driscoll said, “It’s so important that we offer a seat at the table for everyone whose lives will be impacted by the decisions we make as an administration.”

A total of 325 people filled out an online application and submitted letters of interest and recommendation. While only 60 people were chosen for the Executive Committee, a statewide youth summit will be organized in the fall to bring together all 325 applicants. The opportunity was advertised through the media, non-profits and community leaders. School superintendents are spread the word. The applications were reviewed and “with an eye toward the students’ interests — including experience in previous councils in schools, demographics and students perspectives on what they would like to accomplish on the council for their communities,” said Isabella Lanata, Healey’s deputy press secretary.

Lanata said students serving on the Youth Advisory Council gain first-hand knowledge of the state budget and legislative processes and are able to work toward improving the lives of the state’s young people.

Four members of the council hail from Hampden County: Elianna Umana Kimura of Westfield, Mary Zachara of Ludlow, Shane Dillion of Springfield and Victoria Mazzaferro of East Longmeadow. Another three members — Quinn Speek of Belchertown, and Haliyah Friedman-Kassis and Jade Rousseau, both of Northampton — represent Hampshire County.

Dillion said joining the Youth Advisory Council under Healey was important to him. “Historically there’s been a divide between the eastern and western parts of the state … and Gov. Healey has made it clear that she wants to be the governor for all parts of the state,” Dillion said.

The Amherst College sophomore has previous experience with committee work. He was the student council president while attending The Springfield Renaissance School and as a senior there, worked on a grass roots campaign for a City Council candidate.

Dillion sees his role on the council as uplifting youth voices” and “staying focused on being a bridge between the issues that matter to young people and the governor.”

One of the two priorities Dillion wants to address with the council is high-quality high-school guidance counselors. He said without the guidance counselor at The Springfield Renaissance School, he would not have applied to Amherst College, and that guidance is something all students should have.

The other priority is mental health and how it is addressed in schools. Dillion said he has a young nephew and is worried about the future being left for him.

Dillion said he has not “written off” a career in public service. “I just love anything logistics.” He opined that “behind the scenes” is where the “real work” is done.

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