Below, meet some of the members of the Statewide Youth Council and learn more about their backgrounds.

Name: Eddie Mercado
From: Lowell, MA

I applied to the Youth Council to make a change and a difference to teens' lives because I've been a victim of many of the issues teens face within their communities. I saw the Council as an opportunity to increase the presence of a youth voice within the Commonwealth and to enable youth to become more involved within their communities. When I found out that I had been accepted I was really surprised, even though I had attended the four planning meetings, had worked with the Governor's aides throughout the planning process, and knew what was going on.

So far, Council members have worked on getting the Council to run more smoothly. During this year, we worked on creating a youth summit that would kick off with issues that trigger everything, such as gang violence, education, drug abuse, etc. These are things that are not easy but are possible to change. What I'm getting out of the Youth Council is a chance to help others and create positive change for the Commonwealth, as well as the opportunity to better educate myself on how government is run.

Name: Brianna Busby
From: Wareham, MA

As a member of the Governor's Statewide Youth Council, I have been able to advocate for the youth of my community, my county and my state. I have been their voice and have been actively working on getting the agendas of education, jobs, teen pregnancy, and gang violence, heard and addressed from the youth perspective. I, as well as the other members of the GSY Council, feel that a youth-led approach to these issues is the best way of tackling them.

There have been many meetings in which Council members were able to meet and ask questions of representatives from various state agencies that deal with youth-related issues. These meetings have been invaluable in that we now have knowledge of who to contact with regard to any youth-related issues, and these agencies now know that there is a Governor's Statewide Youth Council.

Since I have been on the Council, I have also attended the Public Narrative training with Marshall Ganz, where I learned the art of public narrative that has benefited me in terms of talking to youth groups in my community. I have also attended the special screening of HBO's "The Black List" in which Governor Patrick and other African-American professionals expressed their struggles and their accomplishments.

Recently, we worked on the Youth Summit, held this October. The Summit addressed education, jobs, teen pregnancy, and gang violence issues, as well as serving as the kick-off for the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). It is our hope that over the next 10 years, the youth of Massachusetts will become sufficiently empowered and that the goals set forth in our agenda will have been accomplished.

It has been an honor being a member of the Governor's Statewide Youth Council and I look forward to continuing my term. It has been very rewarding to see that efforts are being made to help the youth in Massachusetts and that I am able to be apart of it all.

Name: Louisa Wilde Carman
From: Stockbridge, MA

My original goal in applying to the Governor's Statewide Youth Council was to use it as a catalyst for changing energy policy to protect the environment. I wanted to involve youth in that process and take real steps on an issue that I thought was important. Although I still recognize how dire our energy situation is, I no longer see that as the Council's main focus. During the Youth Council Orientation, we had a session called "Raw and Uncut," during which everyone shared their reasons for applying to the Council. It was an eye-opening experience for me, as many of my peers had experienced brutal encounters with drug use, violence and lack of educational opportunities. The exercise proved to me that although solving the energy crisis is imperative, there are more pressing issues.

We first need to focus on making it safe for youth to walk down the streets without being mugged, and to ensure that every student will receive an acceptable education. Although my original objectives have not been the center of attention on this Council, I feel that we are making progress that will positively influence the youth in our state. This has been an incredible experience, and I know that it will only become richer as the Council evolves.

Name: Jose Rodrigues
From: Stoughton, MA

The Governor's Statewide Youth Council not only is a great opportunity, but it is also a testimony to how lucky I truly am. I was born into a dysfunctional family. My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and my father, with a bipolar disorder. Luckily, when I was only a few weeks old my aunt and uncle took me in as their own child. They were the parents that I could only have wished for. Their deep roots in their Portuguese heritage gave me the knowledge of what it was like to be a first-generation born American. I only needed to smell my aunt's cooking to know that I was home. Yet, I was still not able to accept my parents' illness, and struggled to talk about it. It was only when I was embraced by my religious community that I realized it was okay to be different. Through a group called Life Teen, not only was I able to find myself, I also learned that it was okay to be different. Life Teen gave me the strength to openly talk about my parents' illness and my family situation. They made it possible for me to give back, and I consequently involved myself in community service projects and religious activities.

In my junior year at high school, I learned from my Spanish teacher about the Governor's Statewide Youth Council. At the last minute, I reluctantly applied, feeling nervous and certain that they would not pick me. My acceptance, however, affirmed what I believed was right. During our first meetings, I hesitated to show who I truly was because I was nervous that I would not be accepted. After the first couple of encounters, I realized that we were all alike and that this was a diverse group of individuals that I could get along with. At our second or third meeting, the Council members took over and decided that we wanted control of the meetings. From that, I saw that the group was ready to take action and make a difference in today's society. The involvement of some of the other members has also inspired me to become more involved. I'm committed to this group, and I can only hope that I can inspire others to also become involved and to make the necessary effort to make a difference.

Name: Stanley Narcisse
From: Haverhill, MA

I grew up with a single mom. As the oldest of three children, I was always involved in causes such as community service and helping others. We lived in a North Cambridge public housing project, where I constantly witnessed violence, pain, and suffering. It was unpleasant because the young people were routinely exposed to gang violence! Now, I live in Haverhill, where I'm involved with many non-profit organizations; one being the Violence Intervention Prevention team. I'm also, along with my adult mentor, a HIPP (Help Increase The Peace Program) co-facilitator.

I was introduced to the Youth Council through an adult mentor. My first thought was that I didn't have a chance of being selected because my resume wasn't good enough to qualify me for this opportunity. I've since witnessed a dramatic change in myself. First, I've grown intellectually and spiritually, and have been exposed to issues such as civics. Second, I've acquired a better understanding of people and my peers. I've created new friendships with great people whom I would have never thought of encountering and feel as if I'm part of a family to whom I've grown close. I'm very humbled by the opportunity I've been given and am excited to be able to contribute as much as I can to the Council. I feel that we have a lot to offer and that we're going to create positive change in the Commonwealth.

Name: Lauren Logan
From: Cotuit, MA

When I applied to join the Governor's Statewide Youth Council in May of 2008 , I had a vision of the enormous change that could be initiated by twenty-eight young people from across the state. Since then, I believe that we are already on the road to great success by striving to significantly improve the lives of our peers.

One of my expectations was that we would try to include the voices of our peers who aren't civically engaged. We tend to overlook those who don't participate in organized school or community groups and those who are not voicing their opinions. We often forget that their voices matter too. The youth community in Massachusetts is composed of many different voices and opinions and the only way for us to define a common vision is to accept a diversity of views. The youth summit we hosted in October of this year represented the start of this goal.

I am extremely thankful to have been chosen as a member of the Governor's Statewide Youth Council because my experience as a Council member has widened my perspective of others' unique lifestyles. I believe I am now a more effective leader in my community because I have had the opportunity of learning how others lead and the ways in which they are different from me.

Name: Patrick Johnson
From: Brewster, MA

I was drawn to apply to the Governor's Statewide Youth Council because of the way in which it had started. The creation of the Council stemmed from a tragic series of youth-related violence within the Commonwealth, but these events became a motivating factor for change and new hope. I was intrigued, because not too often is a force for input met with the need for it. The Council has always been a symbiotic relationship between young people starving to serve their communities and political minds starving for fresh perspectives. At the swearing in ceremony, the Governor said, "We created the Council because you asked for it." Since then, Council members have formed a bond and developed a team spirit that none of us could have anticipated.

As members of this Council, many of us have had to overcome our fears. Some of us were too shy to stand in front of a group of our peers. Others had never before met someone who had been a gang member, or who had experienced abject poverty. What has come out of this is that a youth from Lawrence has developed a bond with another from Pittsfield, and a youth from Brewster with one from Springfield. In this way, the Youth Council has become a symbol of hope for the future of our Commonwealth - a future in which we are not bogged down by petty regional differences, but share a stake in the collective futures of our neighbors. Consequently, the livelihood of a youth in Methuen matters to a youth in Shrewsbury. No matter what else we may have accomplished, nothing can transcend the fact that we accomplished it with a spirit of unselfishness and common aspiration. It's not the seven meetings we've held or the activities and forums in which we've participated in that matter to us, it's the fact that we've created a model for people of all walks of life to work with a common purpose.

Name: Daniel Tassone
From: Pittsfield, MA

The Governor's Statewide Youth Council has given me an in-depth, detailed look at the inner workings of the state's democratic system. The Council is based on the principal that the only way to make change is through action, and with this philosophy we have accomplished a lot in only one year. I was first attracted to the Council by the notion of representing Berkshire County - a community of which I am incredibly proud because of its outstanding reputation in the performing arts, its dedication to wildlife preservation, and the close-knit neighborhoods that exist in every town. Because of our distance from Boston, I had never before had an opportunity to be involved in state politics. The Youth Council has given me the opportunity to see how Massachusetts is run and to influence how youth-related issues are addressed.

During our orientation session, each member told the story of his or her life, and explained what has shaped them into who they are today. Although each person's story was unique, they all ended with a unifying quality: the desire to make a difference. Our comfort with one another has ensured that we can discuss, debate, and compromise when tackling issues that afflict youth within the state.

At our first official meeting, I developed a considerable admiration for the adult facilitators. They had developed an agenda for us that laid out the topics we would discuss throughout the day. However, as the meeting moved forward, the Council members became frustrated with the structure and asked to develop a different meeting plan. Without hesitation, the facilitators gave us control over the day's events, and have continued to do so for each successive meeting. This level of adult trust in teenagers is rare, which is why the structure of the Council is especially innovative.

I never dreamed that we would accomplish so much in our first year. I imagined the time would be filled with endless brainstorming sessions or a never-ending quest for structure. Instead, I have watched the Council grow into a mature, focused group that is capable of tackling any issue. Over the past twelve months I have learned invaluable information about what constitutes a fair government body. It has become clear to me that a just democratic group does not only need a voting system, but that it is equally important for them to have an impartial forum where advocates of every position are able to speak their minds. Before joining the Council, I never realized the true importance of open communication in a government body. Although this process can sometimes prevent us from making quick decisions, I believe that our first year has effectively laid the foundations for what will be a vital body for years to come.