Valdosta Youth Council Completes Productive Third Year

Staff Report From Valdosta CEO

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

The 22-member Valdosta Youth Council, initiated by Mayor John Gayle in 2015, successfully completed the 2017-2018 academic year with a variety of accomplishments. The VYC, now in its third 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 members of the 2017-2018 VYC are:  Juan Angel, Joey Butters, Ella Dampier, Emily Dinkins, Will Gerber (Secretary/ Treasurer), Daniel Holcombe, Dalemetrius Huff, Paris Jackson, Nikerria Jones, Kaightlyn Jowers, Isabel Kassum, Erin Kelly (President), Cristalynn Lee, Abbi Long, Sean Manning (Historian), Nevin Miller, Catriona Moore, Clancy Claire Perry (Parliamentarian), Zandayja Rollins, Toni Salami, Kiara Thomas, Zachary Williams.

“The Valdosta Youth Council has connected me with different students and government leaders throughout my community,” said outgoing VYC President Erin Kelly, a Valdosta High School 9th grader. “This is a great opportunity to get involved with your city to learn about government. 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 2017-2018 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 Neighborhood Development Manager, the Planning & Zoning Administrator, the Southern Marketing Coordinator for the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture, Officer Carla Jones and her new Therapy Dog “Hope”, the Police Chief, the Stormwater Manager, the Water Treatment Plant Superintendent, the City Marshal and the Public Works Supervisor.

Participated in the City of Valdosta’s second annual Dumpster Art Project that transformed City trash dumpsters in the downtown area into pieces of public art.

Traveled to Atlanta to visit the Governor’s Mansion, the State Capitol, and the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture where the youth learned about State government and interacted with State leadership.

Hosted a Leadership Development Training in January 2018 where VYC members identified leadership traits in themselves, as well as in others.

Coordinated the 2018 “If I Were Mayor” Essay Contest for 6th grade students.

Collectively completed more than 100 hours of community service (a minimum of eight hours each).
Participated in the Valdosta Christmas Tree Lighting, the Electronics Recycling event, and other City-sponsored events.

Produced two VYC Meetings that were shown on the City’s Metro 17 with the assistance of Media Coordinator Marcus McConico to discuss issues being addressed each month at VYC meetings and ran 16 VYC stories during the year on City Focus.

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 two organized cleanups of their adopted .6 mile portion of North Lee Street resulting in 15, thirty-gallon bags of trash removed from this City street.

Documented their third year of VYC activities in a hard-bound scrapbook that will be passed on each year to the succeeding VYC.

The VYC members elected new officers as their final act of business at their May 11 meeting. Toni Salami will serve as President, Joseph Butters as Vice President and Will Gerber as Secretary/Treasurer for the 2018-2019 academic year.

“The City of Valdosta congratulates the VYC members for their service to the public and for successfully completing their third 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 former Valdosta City Councilman Alvin Payton, Jr., 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 former Public Information Officer Sementha Mathews.