PB’s youth coun­cils an aid to lead­er­ship 16 high school stu­dents to weigh in

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - DALE EL­LIS

High school stu­dents in Pine Bluff will soon have a new op­por­tu­nity to weigh in on mat­ters af­fect­ing their city.

Mayor Shirley Washington an­nounced last week the for­ma­tion of the Mayor’s Youth Coun­cil, which will work with the mayor’s of­fice and Pine Bluff’s City Coun­cil as ad­vo­cates for the com­mu­nity.

The youth coun­cil will con­sist of 16 high school stu­dents from the Pine Bluff, Dol­lar­way and Wat­son Chapel school dis­tricts. The stu­dents must main­tain min­i­mum 2.5 grade-point av­er­ages. Del­e­gates will meet twice a month in City Hall and at­tend City Coun­cil meet­ings.

Washington said the youth coun­cil will give stu­dents who are se­lected an up-close look at how city busi­ness is con­ducted. It also will pro­vide par­tic­i­pants an op­por­tu­nity to iden­tify and ad­dress is­sues within the city that they con­sider im­por­tant by draw­ing those is­sues to the at­ten­tion of Washington and City Coun­cil mem­bers.

Washington, who spent 38 years work­ing in ed­u­ca­tion, said the youth coun­cil is a way to en­gage young peo­ple in the process of govern­ment and help ed­u­cate them to be­come fu­ture lead­ers. She said she was in­spired to act af­ter

she was ap­proached by a stu­dent in the school dis­trict who had a sim­i­lar idea.

“She was a ninth-grader, I think from Jack Robey Ju­nior High School, who had the same vi­sion I had, that of a youth coun­cil in the city,” Washington said. “She wanted to see a cam­paign, like for of­fice, and she had a broad vi­sion.

“I thought she was very ma­ture and very broad in her think­ing and in the process she thought we should use to make this come about.”

Washington said she was un­able to im­ple­ment the idea ini­tially be­cause it was early in her may­oral term and there were too many other is­sues that took prece­dence at that time, but she never for­got the idea.

“Pine Bluff is in a pe­riod of what we call, maybe, a re­nais­sance pe­riod,” she said. “There’s a big come­back here for our city, and the youth have to be a big part of that be­cause ev­ery­thing we do is not just for to­day or the now, it’s for the fu­ture. Our youth

are smart, they are en­gaged, and they have good ideas that we need to en­cour­age them to share with us.”

Although the youth coun­cil will not have a pol­i­cy­mak­ing role in city govern­ment, Washington said the pro­gram will pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to work on projects that ad­dress spe­cific needs in the com­mu­nity and to make rec­om­men­da­tions to city lead­ers. The pro­gram will be ad­min­is­tered through the mayor’s of­fice in part­ner­ship with city de­part­ments and com­mu­nity part­ners.

Washington said to­day’s lead­ers have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to nur­ture and groom young peo­ple for the lead­er­ship roles they will as­sume in years to come.

“They have to be able to pick up the reins where we drop them and carry on,” she said.

Ap­pli­ca­tions can be picked up at Pine Bluff area high schools and are due by Fri­day. Stu­dents also may ap­ply on­line at www.city­of­pinebluff. com/of­fice-of-the-mayor.

More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able by call­ing the mayor’s of­fice at (870) 730-2000, Ex­ten­sion 7.

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