Valdosta Youth Council Completes Productive Fifth Year

The 32-member Valdosta Youth Council (VYC), Initiated by former Mayor John Gayle in 2015, successfully completed the 2019-2020 academic year with a variety of accomplishments. The VYC, now in its fifth program year, has its largest class of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders from 11 different schools in Valdosta and Lowndes County.

It was Mayor Gayle’s desire to help young people build leadership skills and learn about civic responsibility, to gain a better understanding of municipal government, and to prepare them for a lifetime of public and community service. Throughout the 2019-2020 program year, VYC members embraced their mission and accomplished the following:

  • Gained an understanding and appreciation of municipal government by meeting monthly with a variety of City and local leaders including: the City Manager, City Clerk, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Police K-9 Unit, and Municipal Court Judge.
  • Participated on Sidewalk Stencil Art in the Downtown area, along with marking storm water drains and a Scrapbook event.
  • Completed one organized cleanup of their adopted .6-mile portion of North Lee Street resulting in 12, thirty-gallon bags of trash removed from this City street.
  • Participated in the Fall Electronics Recycling Event with Keep Lowndes-Valdosta Beautiful.
  • Toured the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts.
  • Participated in the City of Valdosta Christmas Tree Lighting Event and had a flat in the Christmas Parade.
  • Participated in a fluid artwork event and then sold their artwork to raise money to purchase toiletry items for the homeless population in our community.
  • Hosted a Leadership Development Training in January, 2020 where VTC member Identified leadership traits in themselves, as well as in others.
  • Took a Legislative trip to Atlanta and toured the Capitol and the Apex Museum.
  • Collectively completed more than 100 hours of community service (a minimum of 8 hours each).
  • Produced seven VYC Video spots that were shown on Facebook, YouTube, and City Focus with the assistance of Metro 17’s Marcus McMonico to discuss issues being addressed each month at VYC meetings.

In 2019 the VYC also established the John Gayle Leadership Award in honor of former Mayor Gayle for his leadership, his commitment, his dedication, and his passion to serve the citizens of our community and make Valdosta a better place to live, work and play. This year’s recipient of the John Gayle Leadership Award was Caleb Perez.

Though the VTC Year was cut short due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the VTC members are to be commended for their leadership and community service. We would like to congratulate the following VTC Members on a job well done and we look forward to seeing many of you next year: Dean Barnett (Vice President), Myriah Bennett, Najah Blankumsee (Secretary/Treasurer), Avery Childers (Parliamentarian),  John Laurent Dean, Jalen Denton, Emily Dinkins (President), Brooke Felkel, Kapreal Griffin, Thomas Griner, Henry Hamilton, Yunique Hazzard, Brizeida Hernandez, Jackson Hill, Nah’Torrie Hill, Erin Howard (Historian), Aida Miller, Raymond Moody, Bryce Moore, Morgan Parnell, Caleb Perez, Cerigan Philips, Aaron Robertson,Tiffany Rutland, Elizabeth Scruggs, Tristen Steward, Erick Thomas Jr., Malcom Thomas, Jayci Thompas, Patrick Wallace, Davis Wardwell, and Zacharie Watts-Thomas.

A virtual graduation ceremony was held for the VYC members at the June 25 City Council Meeting.

“The City of Valdosta congratulates the VYC members for their service to the public and for successfully completing their fifth program year,” said Mayor Scott James Matheson. “I am continually amazed at how these young people want to be involved in their community and government. Our job is to continue to provide these opportunities that include our young people and provide the educational opportunities that will positively impact their futures.”

For more information, contact Valdosta City Clerk Teresa Bolden at 229-259-3503 or; or Public Information Officer Ashlyn Johnson at 229-259-3548 or