Valdosta Youth Council Completes Productive Fourth Year

Staff Report From Valdosta CEO

Friday, May 17th, 2019

The 15-member Valdosta Youth Council (VYC), initiated by Mayor John Gayle in 2015, successfully completed the 2018-2019 academic year with a variety of accomplishments. The VYC, now in its fourth 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 2018-2019 VYC are: Juan Angel (Historian), Brayden Anderson, Dean Barnett, Najah Blankumsee, George Butters, Joey Butters (Vice President), Aniya Davenport, Emily Dinkins, Will Gerber (Secretary/ Treasurer), Janay Hill, Daniel Holcombe (Parliamentarian), Nevin Miller, Catriona Moore, Toni Salami (President), Anthony Thomas, and Erick Thomas, Jr.

Throughout the 2018-2019 academic year, the VYC made an impact, embracing their mission and achieving a variety of accomplishments, including 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.

Collectively completed more than 100 hours of community service(a minimum of 8 hours each)

Coordinated the 2019 “If I Were Mayor” Essay Contest for local 6th-grade students.

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 initiative

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 trash bags of trash removed from this City street.

Documented their fourth year of VYC activities in a hardbound scrapbook that will be passed on each year to the succeeding council

The VYC members elected new officers as their final act of business at their May 9 meeting. Emily Dinkins will serve as President, Dean Barnett as Vice President, and Najah Blankumsee as Secretary/Treasurer for the 2019-2020 academic year.

“The City of Valdosta congratulates the VYC members for their service to the public and for successfully completing their fourth 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 Councilwoman Vivian Miller-Cody, City Clerk Teresa Bolden, J. L. Newbern Middle School Vice Principal James White, St. John Catholic School Counselor Laurie Wallace, Media Coordinator Marcus McConico, and Public Information Officer Ashlyn Becton.