City board approves youth council program

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A new program will give local high school students the opportunity to participate in city government and help the community.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Friday approved a resolution establishing the Vicksburg Youth Council to get comments from the city’s youth on what they would like to see in the way of youth-related programs and encourage increased community involvement.

South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson, who will serve as the organization’s adviser, said he wants a 15- to 20-member council composed of students from Vicksburg’s four high schools.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“What we want is representation from the four high schools, Vicksburg High School, Warren Central, St. Aloysius and Porters Chapel, so we can have some diversity and hear from all the youth in the city,” he said. “A lot of other cities are doing this, where they are called the mayor’s youth council.”

“I commend Mr. Thompson for taking it over and doing it,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “It will allow our youth to have interaction with the government.”

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said he supports the council “100 percent.”

“I think it’s good that we’re giving them a voice,” he said. “There are so many things affecting young people today that we need to bring them together and to listen to them, and to try and do everything in our power to help them out. This is a very good thing.”

According to the program’s mission statement, the council’s purpose “is to provide an opportunity for students to serve as role models by planning and conducting productive community projects, encouraging youth interest in local government and acting as a voice for the youth of Vicksburg.”

Council membership will be open to high school students from sophomore through senior. The students must have at least a 2.5 grade-point average, submit an application and go through an interview.

The students, Thompson said, will have to show dedication to community service projects, such as working in community gardens, adopting a playground, reading programs, “and whatever the needs are in the community.” They will also meet and discuss things that are important to youth development in the city.

He said students would be able to apply for the council when school starts in the fall. Presently, he said, city officials are preparing the application and making the schools and parents aware of the program.

Thompson said the idea for the council grew out of talks he had with students while visiting the high schools.

“They had questions about government and government’s outreach to youth, and what better way to hear from the youth than to allow them to meet as a council and make recommendations to the city,” he said. “They would also be involved in community service projects to allow them to gain community service hours that will allow them to put those toward scholarships.

“I just think with the right structure Vicksburg can benefit from it and our youth can benefit from it, and gain a lot of experience, exposure and education opportunities.”

City officials worked with a mayor’s youth council during former Mayor Paul Winfield’s administration, but the program never caught on.

Thompson said the new program will be organized and structured, adding, “That’s why our summer youth program has been a success two years in a row, because we’ve took the time and put some guidelines to it and we put the time into it.”

He said participation when Winfield tried his program was good, indicating an interest in a youth council program, “But it didn’t last, because you have to have the time to dedicate for it, and you have to have more structure to it.”

“We’re willing to put the time and effort into it to make it something great,” he said. “I think it will succeed.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John