McNary High School student Emerson Carella knows what he wants and goes for it. The junior, with a GPA of 4.54, will ask the Keizer City Council to rescind its recent vote to require city committee members be at least 18 years old and to share his concern about teen suicide at the June 5 meeting.
Carella, 17, was appointed by Councilor Robert Husseman to the city’s Volunteer Coordinating Committee that interviews and recommends members for city committees for final approval by the council. The appointment was blocked when some councilors interpreted the city charter restricted committee membership to those 18 years of age and older.
The denial of an appointment led Carella to decide to address the council about two issues that are important to him: youth representative in city government and youth suicide.
“I want to combat the horribly increasing rate of teen suicide and specifically male suicide from ages 11 to 24,” said Carella. “(It’s) been on the rise since 2014, and it seems to be something that is highly unaddressed.”
He said he wants to get youth representation because “we’re the ones suffering the most. We’re being told that we can’t have a voice because we’re simply too young to understand.”
He wants to press the issue, hoping to change the council’s mind on limiting city committee members to adults.
It is expected the well-spoken teen will get a good reception from the council. His grade point average is evidence of his dedication. He attends Wilson Hill Academy via online classes, where he receives a classical education. He attends McNary for extracurricular activities such as playing on the varsity soccer team.
Carella is the youngest member on the board of United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley. He is most proud of his status as the youngest person to ever step foot in the state Senate, as a working staff member.
In the summer of 2022 he was a member of the FBI teen academy in which he worked with a trauma intervention program, something he wants to see in Marion County.
He is not the only achiever in his family. His brother is an aerospace engineer at Notre Dame University while his sister attends Portland State University. Carella was homeschooled in his elementary and middle school years.
On June 5 he wants to focus on the suicides of those between the ages of 11 and 24. “That’s the area that goes most unaddressed. I can’t fix that. I’m simply a teenager who sees an issue that wants to see professional help to fix that issue,” he said.
He added that the first step is to get attention and get it addressed. Carella cited new stresses in the younger ages of development as a cause for the dramatic rise in youth suicide.
Carella said that statistics from the CDC show that even if they don’t take their life, more than one in five young people either attempt to take their own lives “and more than that, think about it daily.”
“A lot of the issues with suicide is people simply don’t feel heard,” Carella said.
Carella rejects the notion that suicide is romantic. “There’s nothing Romeo and Juliet about suicide. It is one of the worst things that loved ones can go through or witness.”
After graduation in 2024 Carella is considering several colleges including Brown University. He plans to study linguistics and Russian studies. He hopes to become fluent in Russian with the aim of becoming a translator.
Carella is hoping other teens will join him at the June 5 council meeting.