When his English teacher, T.J. Gomez, suggested he apply for Gov. Doug Ducey’s Youth Advisory Council, Morenci High School senior Cody Torres scoffed.
“At first I thought no one’s going to pay attention to an application from a small town like Morenci,” Torres said. “But when I started to look into the council I decided I wanted to be a voice for small towns so he wouldn’t just hear from Phoenix kids.”
As it turns out, someone was paying attention to small town applicants because Torres was chosen to the council after filling out the application and going through a telephonic interview process.
He attended his first council meeting via Zoom a couple of weeks ago and he’ll be participating in meetings with his fellow council members and Arizona Department of Education Director Kathy Hoffman a couple of times a month until the end of the school year.
What comes from those meetings will be shared directly with the governor, Torres said.
There are roughly 20 kids on the council and it turns out they’re from all over the state, Torres said.
“They’re very open. They’re not shy. They’re like me, they like bouncing ideas off each other so we’ll be keeping in contact a lot,” Torres said.
During their first meeting, the council settled on one main thing.
“We set our eyes to bringing us back to the new normal,” Torres, 18, said. “We want to keep our eyes on our future and not focus on the bad stuff.”
The students want to get beyond COVID-19 and focus on other issues students are facing nowadays, issues that pose a danger to their well-being.
“We want to find ways for students to get help with their mental health,” Torres said. “A lot of people are developing anxiety and we want to create a safe environment for everyone inside and outside of school.”
The council also decided they need to come up with ways to get more students involved, he said.
“We want kids not to be afraid to share their wants and needs with us so that we can speak up for those,” who are afraid to share them with adults, Torres said.
Torres has plenty of ways to spread the word. He’s student council treasurer, defending state champion on the Wildcats’ wrestling team and a youth wrestling coach.
He’d like to become a nutritionist and plans to attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colo.
Morenci High School Principal Don Goodman said Torres will make a fine addition to the council.
“I’ve been impressed with Cody since I met him,” Goodman said. “He’s a good kid and he’s got leadership qualities. When he’s not wrestling he’s always helping others.”