Valdosta Youth Council sworn in at Sept. 19 Council Meeting
On September 19, 2019, thirty-four students were sworn in at the Valdosta City Council meeting to serve on the 2019-2020 Valdosta Youth Council (VYC), making it the largest youth council for the city.
The VYC, initiated by Mayor John Gayle in 2015, inspires and prepares seventh- through ninth-grade students for leadership and civic opportunities while allowing them to gain a better understanding of municipal government and community service.
The selection was based on academics, involvement in school and community organizations, leadership potential and a written recommendation from a school administrator. The students are:
• Caleb Perez, 8th Grade, Hahira Middle School
• Jayci Thompson, 8th Grade, Highland Christian Academy
• Davis Wardwell, 8th Grade, Highland Christian Academy
• Zacharie Watts-Thomas, 7th Grade, J.L. Newbern Middle School
• Bryce Moore, 7th Grade, J.L. Newbern Middle School
• Aida Miller, 7th Grade, J.L. Newbern Middle School
• Nah’Torrie Hill, 7th Grade, J.L. Newbern Middle School
• Serenity Pitts, 7th Grade, J.L. Newbern Middle School
• Kapreal Griffin, 7th Grade, J.L. Newbern Middle School
• Emily Dinkins, 9th Grade, Lowndes High School
• Brizeida Hernandez, 8th Grade, Lowndes Middle School
• Channing Smith, 8th Grade, Lowndes Middle School
• Avery Childers, 8th Grade, Lowndes Middle School
• Tiffany Rutland, 8th Grade, Lowndes Middle School
• Aaron Robertson, 7th Grade, Lowndes Middle School
• Elizabeth Scruggs, 8th Grade, Valwood
• Thomas Griner, 8th Grade, Valwood
• John Dean, 8th Grade, Valwood
• Brooke Felkel, 9th Grade, Open Bible Christian School
• Morgan Parnell, 9th Grade, Open Bible Christian School
• Yunique Hazzard, 9th Grade, Open Bible Christian School
• Henry Hamilton, 7th Grade, St. John Catholic School
• Raymond Moody, 7th Grade, St. John Catholic School
• Patrick Wallace, 7th Grade, St. John Catholic School
• Cerigan Phillips, 8th Grade, Valdosta Early College Academy
• Erick Thomas, Jr., 9th Grade, Valdosta High School
• Najah Blankumsee, 9th Grade, Valdosta High School
• Jeffrey Dean Barnett, 8th Grade, Valdosta Middle School
• Myriah Bennett, 7th Grade, Valdosta Middle School
• Tristen Steward, 7th Grade, Valdosta Middle School
• Malcolm Thomas, 7th Grade, Valdosta Middle School
• Jalen Denton, 8th Grade, Valdosta Middle School
• Jackson Hill, 8th Grade, Valdosta Middle School
• Erin Howard, 7th Grade, Valdosta Middle School
“I look forward to working alongside these young leaders throughout the school year, hearing their concerns and suggestions, and witnessing the impact they will have on their peers and within our community,” Gayle said.
Throughout the 2018-2019 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, Crime Lab Director, Police K-9 Unit, Municipal Court Judge, Engineering and Traffic Maintenance, Public Works, Stormwater & Arbor Divisions, and Keep Lowndes-Valdosta Beautiful.
• Traveled to the Sun Belt Ag Expo in Moultrie, which is known as “North America’s Premier Farm Show”, and learned about agriculture and Georgia Grown Products.
• Participated in a Community Service Project along with members of the Project Rescue Outreach Ministries to help feed the homeless in our community.
• Hosted a Leadership Development Training in January, 2019 where VYC members identified leadership traits in themselves, as well as in others.
• Coordinated the 2019 “If I Were Mayor” Essay Contest.
• Collectively completed more than 100 hours of community service (a minimum of 8 hours each).
• Participated in the Valdosta Christmas Tree Lighting, the Electronics Recycling event, and other City-sponsored events.
• Produced seven VYC Video spots that were shown on Facebook, YouTube, and City Focus with the assistance of Metro 17’s Marcus McConico to discuss issues being addressed each month at VYC meetings.
• Participated in a radio talk show with Black Crow Media to promote the Youth Council and their initiatives.
• Continued a growing presence on the VYC Facebook page for local youth to follow the work of the VYC, to be informed on youth issues, and to discover ways to be engaged in their local government.
• Completed one organized cleanup of their adopted .6 mile portion of North Lee Street resulting in 10, thirty-gallon bags of trash removed from this City street.
• Documented their fourth year of VYC activities in a hard-bound scrapbook that will be passed on each year to the succeeding council.
The VYC is guided by an Advisory Board which is appointed by Mayor John Gayle who serves as the head of the Board. The 2019-202 VYC Advisory Board members are Councilwoman Sandra Tooley of District 2, Councilwoman Vivian Miller-Cody of District 1, and city staff members Teresa Bolden, Taylor Marzell, Ashlyn Becton and Marcus McConico.
The VYC meetings are held from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. just prior to the second City Council Meeting of each month in the Council Chambers (unless otherwise noted) and they are open to the general public.