Statewide youth council conference centers on service

Statewide youth  council conference centers on service
October 15
00:00 2015

By Todd Luck

The Chronicle

Teens from youth councils from around the state learned about service during the State Youth Conference held this past weekend in Winston-Salem.

About 100 teens representing nine cities attended the conference. There are 22 youth councils across the state. They vary in size and function, but are typically associated with city or county government and involve civic engagement.

The Winston-Salem Youth Advisory Council (WSYAC) advices the city on matters pertaining to youth and does an annual community service project. The members are selected from local high schools. Winston-Salem Human Relations Director Wanda Allen-Abraha, whose department oversees the local youth council, said the conference gives the WSYAC a chance to share with other councils.

“What we’re doing is having our students here locally to showcase to the other cities from across the state what they’ve been doing to serve the community.” said Allen-Abraha.

Different cities with youth councils take turns hosting quarterly statewide conferences. The teens arrived Friday evening (Oct. 9) and left Sunday morning. They spent Saturday morning doing community service projects and then gathered at Winston Square Park to discuss what they learned. They also painted on the Youth Expression Wall, a wall in the park that youth can paint on, which was created as a service project by the local WSYAC several years ago.

Jewel Tillman, chair of the High Point Youth Council, was among the youth council teens helping with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools’ anti-bullying walk on Saturday morning at BB&T Ballpark.

“I love seeing what we do, how it impacts others,” she said. “Just helping today at the ballpark we saw people get happy because we were there to support them and their event.”

Ashlyn Mann and Andrea Mattox, co-chairs of the Thomasville Area Teen Council, also helped with the walk. Like all youth councils, community service is a big part of what their group regularly does.

“It helps us help our community. We all love to give,” said Mann. “We’d all rather give than receive, all of us.”

Other service projects on Saturday included volunteering at the Habitat Restore, Twin City Stage and the Goler CDC community garden at the Downtown Health Plaza. Isabella Rieco, chair of WSYAC, said the service projects helped expose the teens to issues they didn’t know existed.

“It really opened their eyes and we really came together, all the different councils from across North Carolina, to get this stuff done,” she said.

Rieco said the local council is very active locally and its last community service project was creating a series of public service announcements called “Just Do You” that encourages teens to make healthy choices.

Naomi Aaron, who is also on WSYAC, she said enjoyed helping with the conference. She said being part of a youth council has helped broaden her horizons.

“I like working with people from different backgrounds,” she said. “I go to Salem Academy and, yes, we have a really diverse community but it’s all over the world. I don’t really get to see diverse life in Winston. Now I feel like I’ve diversified myself in Winston in the people I’ve met, the people who I know now and the friendships I’ve formed.”

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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