Returning Youth Commissioner reflects on last year’s successes, excited for what’s to come

Editor’s note: The Valley Water Youth Commission is made up of 21 high school students throughout Santa Clara County, each appointed by one of the seven board members. It is an official board advisory committee that assists the board with public policy, education, outreach, and all matters impacting Santa Clara County youth. The Youth Commission meets quarterly, and each commissioner serves a two-year term. 

Pramath Doddalballapur, a senior at Monta Vista High School, is serving as a Youth Commissioner in District 5. He wrote this for Valley Water.

It was Aug. 24, 2022, the first Youth Commission meeting of the school year, the first in-person meeting since the pandemic, and my first meeting as a returning commissioner. As I sat excitedly at the large rectangular table, watching the 12 new commissioners take their oaths of office, I remembered how I started my journey just a year ago.

Valley Water Youth Commissioner Pramath Doddaballapur

It was early fall 2021, and I was sitting in front of my computer screen, logged into Zoom. I had just learned about the various working groups in the Youth Commission, such as Creek Stewardship, which works to protect our local waterways, Public Arts, which promotes conservation efforts through beautiful art such as murals, and Youth Citizen Science Network, which engages in various environmental stewardship activities, like promoting drought awareness and conservation. And as all the working groups presented their efforts, one stood out to me the most: Job Shadowing and Mentorship. In that group, I could focus on an aspect of the water industry that I’ve previously overlooked: the jobs it held.

The next few months found me working with the awesome staff at Valley Water to plan and host a well-organized virtual Job Shadow Day event that spring. We deliberated over many decisions through our Zoom meetings, figuring out the order of events, the jobs we wanted represented, and the fun activities to engage those joining in. So, when the day of the event came, we were prepared, successfully hosting 46 students who tuned in to learn about career possibilities and the process to provide clean water to Santa Clara County.

The success of Job Shadow Day wasn’t the only thing I felt proud of during that school year but also the friendships I formed during those Zoom meetings in the winter. I learned more about Ranveer Saini and Lucia Parakh, fellow youth commissioners in the Job Shadowing and Mentorship working group. Whether coordinating with Ranveer to advertise the event or planning the interactive activities with Lucia, I will always value the time I spent with them.

But just because the Job Shadowing and Mentorship working group is the best (perhaps a little biased here), all the other working groups were also hard at work.

From the Public Art working group, I saw the beautiful mural they began painting as part of the Mural Art Pilot Project. They worked with local artist Paul J. Gonzalez and the Board of Directors to create a design that beautifies Valley Water’s property and deters graffiti and trash.

From the Youth Citizens Science Network came the launch of an amazing drought awareness campaign that sought to utilize social media to relay information about the current severe drought. Because of the Youth Citizens Science Network’s efforts, like coordinating with the entire Youth Commission on Instagram posts and creating conservation stickers with catchy phrases, the campaign received a positive response from the community.

Youth Commissioner Pramath Doddalballapur, fifth from the left, joins fellow commissioners at the last meeting of the school year on June 8, 2022.

And finally, tremendous progress came from the Creek Stewardship working group through coastal and river cleanups that brought community groups together to protect the environment. Events like National River Cleanup Day on May 21, 2022, were huge successes backed by impressive stats. In the cleanup site hosted by the Youth Commission, volunteers collected over 80 pounds of trash, 32 pounds of recyclables, and cleaned half a mile of the river for flora and fauna.

The past year has thrown so much at me, all for which I’m grateful. As I look back on the progress we youth commissioners made, I can feel the excitement resurging. Excitement to see how each working group will build off the previous year to improve our community. And excitement for the 12 new commissioners to find their passions and positively affect their chosen working groups.

I look forward to the next campaign from the Youth Citizens Science Network, the next creek cleanup from Creek Stewardship, the next art project from Public Art, and of course, the next Job Shadow Day. Here’s to a new year with the Youth Commission!

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