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INDEX JOURNAL - 08/01/2022
ARTICLE & PHOTO BY: DAMIAN DOMINGUEZ

Calling all teens: Greenwood’s mayor is organizing a youth council to get young people involved in their local government.

The project is just as much about learning from local youth as it is teaching them civics. Mayor Brandon Smith said the idea was first shared with him by chaplain Gray Stallworth years ago, but the idea moved from back-burner to top of mind as recent community violence pushed Smith to explore new options.

“It’s something I think is just another piece of the puzzle that can help us get to the roots of our problem, instead of simply being reactive,” he said. “Young people can give us older generations the missing piece. Most of this violence has been between males, ages 17 to 24.”

The Mayor’s Youth Council aims to give young people the chance to connect with government officials and community leaders, while learning civic lessons, having a voice in local government and getting the chance to serve their neighbors. It’s for rising 10th, 11th or 12th grade students within Greenwood County School District 50’s lines, although Smith said he’s extended invitations to private schools in the city limits as well.

Students in the council serve for a yearlong term, from August to May. The aim is to have at least two members from each city ward, with at least six at-large members from anywhere in District 50’s district lines.

The group will meet monthly at city hall to provide their perspectives on local matters, ideas and strategies on how to address community issues and help steer their own experience on the council.

“Maybe there’s problems unique to this generation that aren’t common to other generations throughout time,” Smith said. “We live in a time that’s rapidly changing, social media alone has changed so much.”

Smith said the council can also help city leadership learn what would help keep young people invested in Greenwood, and entice them to stay and invest their time and efforts in their community. The members can serve as conduits to their friends and community too, sharing what they learn about Greenwood’s government, nonprofit world and other civic organizations.

“We talk about police, and I firmly believe we need to properly fund our police department ... but any other ways we as a community — as a whole — can get to the root of the problem and cut off problems before they become problems, we should take it.”

For information on the council and to get an application, contact Assistant City Manager Ryan Thomas at 864-942-8411 or ryan.thomas@gwdcity.com

The mayor’s push to recruit for this youth council came days after a meeting of local elected officials and law enforcement to discuss community violence following the July 8 killing of Keyiona Hill. Smith said that was the first of what he hopes will be much more collaboration, and he’s working to organize meetings with other community stakeholders.



This article can also be found here.

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