Convent Junior Takes the Lead on Youth Issues in San Francisco
Convent Junior Takes the Lead on Youth Issues in San Francisco

As a San Francisco Youth Commissioner, Arianna Nassiri is part of a small group of young leaders who advise the Mayor and Board of Supervisors on youth issues.

In early September as students were still finding the rhythm of a new year, Arianna Nassiri, a Convent junior, raised her right hand at San Francisco City Hall, taking the oath of office with a new class of Youth Commissioners. The swearing-in ceremony, administered by Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen, marked the start of Arianna's second term in office.  

"My position now is to be a diligent representative of the youth of my city," says Arianna, "and that is a heavy responsibility that I put my entire heart and soul into fulfilling."

Before serving on the Youth Commission, Arianna held an internship with then-District 5 supervisor London Breed. "This was one of the experiences that helped me to realize my future in government and public affairs," Arianna says. Seeking to provide a fresh voice for San Francisco youth, she applied for one of 17 coveted positions and was appointed by Ms. Breed to the post of District 5 Youth Commissioner.

"The role of commissioners," Arianna explains, "is to read, review and create policy that affects all youth in San Francisco, as well as to bring the youth voice to the table when decisions are being made." During the busy election season, the group is particularly active.

Arianna poses with members of the Board of Supervisors, including President Malia Cohen, and other Youth Commissioners after their swearing-in ceremony.

While the Youth Commission, according to Arianna, is never formally allowed to advocate for ballot measures, members do organize voter awareness campaigns and rallies, host phone banking events and speak on youth panels.

Arianna, who chairs the commission's Civic Engagement Committee, says their top priority is Vote16, the nation's first ballot measure that would extend voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds for municipal elections. In 2016, the measure lost by a narrow margin, but Arianna is confident that "with the right amount of voter advocacy in the right communities," the youth-led campaign will land on the ballot again in 2020.  

Arianna has also become the public face of a local measure on the midterm ballot: The Embarcadero Seawall proposal, or Proposition A. She articulately represents the youth angle in a short educational video about the measure, part of a "Seawall Messenger" video series created by The Port of San Francisco.

Arianna explains the Embarcadero Seawall project.

"The voice of teens is often left out when policy is being crafted," Arianna states. "Although youths may not yet be able to vote in city elections, they still make up a large percentage of the San Francisco population. By getting involved and projecting your voice onto your legislative bodies, young people can, in turn, mandate a higher level of representativeness."

Photo credit: Allica Santos, a student at Lowell High School.