Saratoga Youth Commission plans new events to reach out to teens

April 20, 2009 — by Tiffany Tseng

Many students remember the Saratoga Youth Commission for the Community Center dances they used to organize for middle school students, along with the other various events they planned for teens. These past couple of years, however, the commission has been shifting away from these middle school dances and brainstorming new ideas to reach out to teens.

“Our focus used to be on the dances that used to bring in hundreds of middle school students,” said youth commission member Tara Fatemi. “These dances have dwindled down though, so we’re been trying different methods of publicizing. We started posting our events up on our Saratoga Youth Commission Facebook group, which is very useful for spreading the updates to many teens in the area.”

The Saratoga Youth Commission is a city commission that focuses on the opinions and needs of teens who live in the city. Many members of the commission attend Saratoga High, including freshman Kayvon Rezaii, sophomore Aditya Dev, juniors Tara Fatemi, Elena Rees and Natalie Tkalcevic and seniors Justin El-Diwany, Corey Rateau, Tiffany Tseng and Cynthia Zhao.

After the closing of the after-school program at the Warner Hutton house for Redwood students several years ago, the commission lost connection with the middle school and, as a result, much of its audience who would attend the events. Because of this, the commission recently had a second retreat in March to discuss its purpose and goals, and is now experimenting with new events and looking for other ways to help the city.

“We kept trying different ideas, and some were more successful than others,” said youth commission member Cynthia Zhao. “Although our Chill Night had a low turnout and the Snow Trip was cancelled, we were able to put on a successful dance with the Invisible Children Club and also a concert.”

The concert, held on Feb. 20, was put on with Pinup Productions, a Bay Area-based concert company, and featured six bands, including Hope for A.M. and We Shot the Moon. Since the event was so successful, with over 160 people attending, the commission will be holding another concert with Pinup on May 9 at the Community Center. The bands I am Empire, Undergone, The Relay Company, Raelin and Lions and Tigers will all be performing. Tickets will be sold at the door for $12.

“We’re expecting this upcoming concert to be another success,” said Zhao. “It’s always more motivating when our events have a good turnout and people always enjoy the concerts.”

Another upcoming event the commission has been planning over the course of this year is a film fest, Flix ’09. Junior Jacob Baker, a member of the youth commission from Bellarmine, first came up with this idea because it was unique compared to the usual events the commission organizes.

“I, personally, decided that the commission needed to branch out from its standard cycle of dances, concerts, lectures and such,” said Baker. “The Bay Area society has truly become focused upon media. Everyone knows we’re the birthplace of YouTube, but just as important is the culture that allowed internet media to form in the first place. The film fest was a combination of a change in the norm and a shift to a digital and media-based event.”

Although the commission originally ran into problems when trying to build interest in the film fest and getting it started, the members are now taking initiative to pull through with it by separating into five smaller commissions that each focus on one aspect of the event.

The film fest will be held on May 15 at the Warner Hutton house, where they will screen student films and serve food in a friendly environment. They currently have 11 film submissions from seven high school students. The commission is hoping that this will be a step forward for them, as they try to refocus their efforts and find new ways of serving the community.

“The youth commission is very open to input from the teens in the city,” said Fatemi. “We’re hoping to shape the future of the commission based on the needs of the teens and to use our events to give back to the community.”