Youth Commissioners End Year Dancing, Debating And Doing Good Deeds

By: Holly Hollman

High school students in the Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission celebrated the end of their year dancing, debating, and doing good deeds.

The Youth Commissioners met Wednesday, May 18 at the Athens Activity Center where they started their meeting with the Electric Slide and Cupid Shuffle. Foundation on Aging board member Kay Burlingame hosts regular dancercise classes for senior citizens at the center and thought the senior citizens would enjoy “kicking up their heels” with the high school students.

Burlingame said some of the female students want to come back throughout the summer to continue dancing with the group.

“The seniors love it when young people join in,” she said. “I’m a senior, and I love it.”

After learning the dance moves, students separated into groups and reviewed 10 grant proposals they received from local non-profits. The proposals were for projects, programs, or events that would benefit Athens. The students did not have enough money to fund each project, so they broke into groups to debate and come to a decision on where they thought the funding would have the most impact. The recipients of those grants will be announced in a few days.

Podcast enthusiasts can listen in about the community grant process on the podcast All In With Athens later this month, when Youth Commissioners Molly Alexander and Carlia Hood will discuss how they made their decisions on proposals.

“You can tell there are certain areas that hold the students’ interest such as healthcare, quality-of-life issues, and helping others,” Mayor Ronnie Marks said. “We tell them it’s their money to invest, and boy, do they take ownership of that charge, which is great to see.”

Dekko Foundation provided a grant and additional funding to support the Youth Commissioners with projects like the community grant program.

At the end of the meeting, Youth Commissioners did several good deeds, such as judging artwork submitted by the Athens branch of the Mental Health Center of North Alabama. Several clients created art pieces, and the students chose 12 for the City Hall Art Corner. The remainder will be on display for the senior citizens at the Athens Activity Center. Heather Vines who works with the center said the clients are thrilled Youth Commissioners conducted the art contest and that City Hall and the center will display the pieces for the public.

Another good deed several Youth Commissioners participated with involved making cards of encouragement for the senior citizens at the center. The cards said things like, “Keep smiling. It’s a beautiful smile,” and “You are loved. You matter.”

Youth Commission organizer and mentor Holly Hollman said she is working with activity center director Amy Golden on creating a senior buddy program next school year where they will pair Youth Commissioners with senior citizens. Golden will have a mailbox area where Youth Commissioners can leave their senior buddy notes, little gifts, and cards. Hollman and Golden are also working on activities where the Youth Commissioners can share tips about using cellphones and computers, and the seniors can share skills like sewing and even line dancing.

“I think about the different facets of our community impacted today by our Youth Commissioners, and I know these are students who will see the importance of engaging with others, thereby building a stronger community, a stronger Athens,” Hollman said.

About the Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission: The Youth Commission is for students in grades 10-12 who are enrolled at Athens High School, Athens Bible School, Lindsay Lane Christian Academy, or a home school in Athens. The goal is to teach them about local government’s role and their role to be engaged and informed citizens.

By: Holly Hollman