Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders the Riverside County Way

Case Story

The offices of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors have a youthful energy thanks to an innovative model that provides at-risk youth an opportunity to serve in the public sector. The County is working with interns to provide essential constituent services and play a key role in leading youth initiatives for the county as a whole.

The Riverside County Legislative Internship Program is a collaboration between the Workforce Development Center, the Board of Supervisors and the California Family Life Center, a non-profit agency that provides the staffing and program support for the program. The program provides at-risk college students with long-term, stable internships where they can gain professional skills, experience and connections for future employment, and foundational knowledge about serving in and leading local government. 

The program has been designed for Riverside County young adults between the ages of 18-24 with eligibility to receive Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding. The young people serve as legislative interns and work alongside district staff in each of the five County Supervisors’ offices.  Interns are selected and assigned to work for two years at approximately 20 hours per week or 1,000 hours per year. As temporarily assigned employees (TAP), interns are paid minimum wage through the county’s WIOA funded Young Adult Program.

Through this unique model, the interns learn about the County Board of Supervisors as a governing body and all its associated processes and procedures. They receive incredibly enriching professional experiences learning about policy implementation as well as services and programs Riverside County provides to its residents. As part of their job experience, interns receive formal skills training, participate in online courses, engage in quarterly performance evaluations, receive mentorship from staff leaders and peers, and learn a variety of relevant work skills, including:

  • Event planning and coordination
  • Strategy and planning
  • Public speaking
  • Supervising, managing and training
  • Record keeping
  • Budgeting, purchasing and accounting
  • Drafting and processing legal agreements, and
  • Networking and relationship-building

Riverside County’s Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington reflects on the Legislative Intern model:

“Every day, I find myself inspired by the spirit, courage and determination of young people, who show a true desire to be active and engaged in their communities. I have had a number of young people in my office – many interns and some who started as interns and later became full-time staff members — and I am always impressed by their creativity, work ethic and commitment to public service.”

One of the reasons Riverside County’s Legislative Intern Program is so unique and innovative is that the Legislative Interns are also the official coordinators of the Riverside Countywide Youth Commission.  Each of the Legislative Interns coordinates a different supervisorial district’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC).

 The charge of the commission is to provide advice, assistance and recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.  The commission also hosts educational and community service events for the youth of Riverside. Notable events include the Annual Youth in Government Day, the Annual Youth Summit, and the Annual Youth Retreat for YAC members.

Each of the five supervisorial districts has a YAC program that provides community service experiences and opportunities for youth to have a voice in county government. With direction from the Legislative Interns, each of the five YAC’s design and host activities to engage youth living in the district. The Legislative Interns also supervise high school students who plan and lead events focused on raising awareness of critical community issues, like supports and services for foster youth, mental health and suicide prevention, homelessness and other foundational topics.  

The impact this program has on the professional development and career preparation for the interns is evident. “60% of previous interns have been hired on within the county following their internship,” shared Rachel Babcock, Professional Services Coordinator with the California Family Life Center (CFLC).  The County of Riverside benefits from supporting youth enrolled in WIOA funded county-program.  The federal job training dollars support the county’s youth development work by employing at-risk young adults who need job training. The young adults provide the county with youth engagement expertise and bringing youth voice to policy and programs across diverse geographic areas.  The county further benefits from these young professionals understand of local government where they may continue to serve in a staff role or consider policy-making opportunities.  The county can learn from the perspective of at-risk young people, and those that have grown up in poverty or challenging circumstances, to better serve audiences of these programs and services.

While the pandemic caused some challenges and changes to the work and service environments in which the Legislative Interns and YACs worked in, the program continued to operate successfully during the COVID-19 era.  Some teens experienced technology and access challenges along with Zoom fatigue. However, the Legislative Interns and YACs sustained their focus and bringing important information about mental health services, suicide prevention and other county resources and programs became a higher priority for these youth engagement experts.

“Students need to talk, learn, connect and get good information and valid resources,” shared Babcock. The YACs were both nimble and resourceful. They organized the 2020 Youth in Government Day as a virtual experience and as a result, even more people were able to participate.  Youth also organized volunteer projects that could be done from home, like serving as pen pals to seniors, making cards for veterans, organizing an online speaker series, and more. Given the changing nature of COVID, the youth youth will continue to operate from a virtual experience in the 2021-2022 academic year with limited in-person events and gatherings.

The Riverside County Legislative Intern and Youth Advisory Committee model is a comprehensive program to engage youth in community service, public service careers, policy-making and civic life.

Information & Resources:

Learn More about Riverside County Youth Commission

Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders the Riverside County Way