New commission gives voice to teens

Students join South Suburban youth panel

Posted 7/27/14

Area teens have more ways than ever to influence their community. With the formation of the first South Suburban Youth Commission, eighth- through 12th-graders are represented in the events offered by the parks and recreation district.

JoAnn …

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New commission gives voice to teens

Students join South Suburban youth panel

Posted

Area teens have more ways than ever to influence their community. With the formation of the first South Suburban Youth Commission, eighth- through 12th-graders are represented in the events offered by the parks and recreation district.

JoAnn Gould, director of recreation and community services at South Suburban Parks and Recreation District, said she has recognized the need to involve teenagers for a while, but the commission has been more than a year in the making. Gould designed the application with guidance from other communities with similar programs. Each applicant had to be interviewed by members of the staff before being appointed. And being appointed after the application process was rewarding.

“It felt kind of like I achieved something I wanted to pursue,” said Bailey Thompson, 14.

South Suburban also offers the summer VolunTeen program, which allows teens to go through the job-hiring process and be placed in a volunteer location that will give them an idea of what it is like to be in the workforce. With the addition of the youth commission, teens have more opportunities and incentive to influence the local community.

“I'm extremely proud to be able to develop this commission,” Gould said. “This commission, coupled with the VolunTeen program, provides an avenue for teens to do what we do.”

The commission was sworn in at a board meeting on July 9, and the first meeting will be held on Aug. 5. Gould said the members will brainstorm ideas for the year at that meeting. The students will be responsible for planning an event aimed at fellow teens, so she values their input.

“We're looking at them as advisers for us,” she said.

The members of the commission come from different backgrounds. The eight members are eighth-grader Sierra Kimes; freshmen Ali Abbas, Audrey Koenig, Amelia Rhea and Thompson; sophomores Dong Wook Lee and Sam Hansen; and senior Megan Bolt. But though they are different ages and come from different schools, they share a passion for the community.

“This group is inspiring to me because they're passionate about serving,” Gould said. “This is an imaginative way for them to be engaged in their community.”

In addition to volunteer service, the commission also gives members the chance to learn more about leadership and civics. As part of their role on the commission, the members will attend a camp for students who are involved in similar positions of leadership. The opportunity to take on a leadership role is an exciting prospect for these students.

“I want to become a better leader in the community and learn more about what makes South Suburban run,” said Koenig, 14.

The formation of the youth commission will allow teens to take on a leadership role and be represented in local government. The students' experiences and insight will be helpful in getting more teens involved as well. Thompson is looking forward to putting the leadership skills she has gained in student council to good use.

“One of my goals is definitely to help impact the community and bring ideas to the table,” she said.

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