The 15-member Valdosta Youth Council (VYC), initiated by Mayor John Gayle in 2015, successfully completed the 2016-2017 academic year with a variety of accomplishments. The VYC, now in its second program year, was created for youth to build leadership skills and learn about civic responsibility, to gain a better understanding of municipal government, and to prepare youth for a lifetime of public and community service.
The graduating members of the 2016-2017 VYC are: Amelia Barnett, Jaida Brown, Drew Correll (President), Will Gerber, Rachael Goss, Matthew Hall (Secretary), Jalith Harding, Dalemetrius Huff, Kaightlyn Jowers, Erin Kelly (Vice President), Abbi Long, Sean Manning (Historian), Clancy Perry (Parliamentarian), Zandayja Rollins and Toni Salami.
“You’re never going to learn anything by doing nothing,” said outgoing VYC President Drew Correll, a Valdosta High School 9th grader. “You should always try to be involved in your community so you can learn about the things that government does for us every day. I encourage all 7th, 8th or 9th graders attending schools in the city to consider being a part of the Valdosta Youth Council and to find your service role in our community.”
Throughout the 2016-2017 academic year, the VYC made an impact, embracing their mission and achieving a variety of accomplishments, including the following:
- Established an anti-bullying campaign, partnering with John Maxwell Certified Speaker Lynne Brown to host the Valdosta Youth Explosion event during Georgia Cities Week, in which nearly 80 youth representing six local city and county schools were united in their stand against bullying.
- Partnered with the Lowndes Youth Leadership League for a trip to the state Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, where they learned about state government and interacted with state leadership.
- Participated in the City of Valdosta’s first Dumpster Art project that transformed five city trash dumpsters in the downtown area into pieces of public art.
- Gained an understanding and appreciation of their municipal government by meeting monthly with a variety of city leaders, including the City Manager, Assistant City Manager, Fire Chief, Police Chief, Gang Unit, Crime Lab Director, K-9 Handler, Municipal Court Judge and Main Street staff.
- Collectively completed 112 community service hours. Their volunteer activities included, among other events, four organized cleanups for their adopted .6 mile portion of N. Lee Street which resulted in 24 thirty-gallon bags of trash removed from the city street.
- Coordinated the 2017 “If I Were Mayor” Essay Contest for local 6th-grade students.
- 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.
- Established a positive youth presence in the community.
The VYC members elected new officers as their final act of business at their May 11 meeting. Erin Kelley will serve as President, Toni Salami as Vice President, and Will Gerber as Secretary/Treasurer for the 2017-2018 academic year.
“The City of Valdosta congratulates the VYC members for their service to the public and for successfully completing their second program year,” said Mayor John Gayle. “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.”
The mayor also expressed his appreciation to the appointed members of the VYC Advisory Board, which includes Valdosta City Councilman Alvin Payton Jr., City Clerk Teresa Bolden, Valdosta Middle School Educator Lynn Orenstein, J.L. Newbern Middle School Vice Principal James White, St. John Catholic School Principal John Davis, Channel 17 Media Coordinator Marcus McConico, and Public Information Officer Sementha Mathews.
The VYC 2017-2018 applications are available on the VYC page and can also be downloaded by clicking “Sign Up” button on their Facebook page.
For more information, contact Valdosta City Clerk Teresa Bolden at 229-259-3503 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Public Information Officer Sementha Mathews at 229-259-3548 or email@example.com.