Culture / News / Portfolio

Mayoral candidates face Boston’s youth

Mayoral candidate Mike Ross entertains questions from students in the African Community Economic Development of New England organization (ACEDONE).

Mayoral candidate Mike Ross entertains questions from students in the African Community Economic Development of New England organization (ACEDONE).

During last week’s forum at Roxbury Community College, the 12 candidates running to replace Mayor Thomas Menino were asked how they would reduce the number of high school dropouts and increase the number of jobs for those Boston Public Schools students with high school degrees.

As it is now, about 12,000 youth between 16 and 24 fall into that category, and while the number of dropouts has declined over the last six years, those numbers are starting to creep back up.

The answers from the candidates ranged from former state Rep. Charlotte Golar-Ritchie’s pledge to appoint a cabinet-level position dedicated to youth to City Councilor Mike Ross’ promise to improve school lunch.

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The program was sponsored by Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative, Multicultural Dropout Outreach Collaborative, Youth Transitions Task Force, Boston Opportunity Agenda, Freedom House and Boston Private Industry Council.

For young people like Charlestown High School student Ryan Gunter, 18, of Dorchester, this forum gives perspective and insight for a very big decision he and countless others will make come Sept. 24, 2013 — election day.

The 2013 mayoral candidates offer a thunderous applause following the end of the forum. Candidates discussed the state of Boston Public Schools and high school dropouts.

The 2013 mayoral candidates offer a thunderous applause following the end of the forum. Candidates discussed the state of Boston Public Schools and high school dropouts.

“I’m voting for the first time so I want to have a basic understanding of who these people are, what it is they stand for and what they’re trying to do in our city,” Gunter said.

Most interviewed by The Banner after the forum said they found it necessary and enlightening.

“I came to see what the mayoral candidates had to say and what they thought about youth and my future,” said Hawa Yusuf, 17, of Jamaica Plain. “There are so many things the Boston public school system lacks and they need to make better. I just want change, good change. We’re like a minority — the Somali community — and our voices are not being heard. We have ESL students who fall back in the system and it’s not their fault that they don’t know English.”

Youth advocate Eleanor Guilford, 26, said she too found the forum informative. “Now I know where the candidates’ heads are pertaining to the youth and what they’re going to do,” she said. “I’m not sure if everyone will follow through but it was good to hear what they think.”

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