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High school students in Pine Bluff will soon have a new opportunity to weigh in on matters affecting their city.

Mayor Shirley Washington announced last week the formation of the Mayor's Youth Council, which will work with the mayor's office and Pine Bluff's City Council as advocates for the community.

The youth council will consist of 16 high school students from the Pine Bluff, Dollarway and Watson Chapel school districts. The students must maintain minimum 2.5 grade-point averages. Delegates will meet twice a month in City Hall and attend City Council meetings.

Washington said the youth council will give students who are selected an up-close look at how city business is conducted. It also will provide participants an opportunity to identify and address issues within the city that they consider important by drawing those issues to the attention of Washington and City Council members.

Washington, who spent 38 years working in education, said the youth council is a way to engage young people in the process of government and help educate them to become future leaders. She said she was inspired to act after she was approached by a student in the school district who had a similar idea.

"She was a ninth-grader, I think from Jack Robey Junior High School, who had the same vision I had, that of a youth council in the city," Washington said. "She wanted to see a campaign, like for office, and she had a broad vision.

"I thought she was very mature and very broad in her thinking and in the process she thought we should use to make this come about."

Washington said she was unable to implement the idea initially because it was early in her mayoral term and there were too many other issues that took precedence at that time, but she never forgot the idea.

"Pine Bluff is in a period of what we call, maybe, a renaissance period," she said. "There's a big comeback here for our city, and the youth have to be a big part of that because everything we do is not just for today or the now, it's for the future. Our youth are smart, they are engaged, and they have good ideas that we need to encourage them to share with us."

Although the youth council will not have a policymaking role in city government, Washington said the program will provide opportunities for students to work on projects that address specific needs in the community and to make recommendations to city leaders. The program will be administered through the mayor's office in partnership with city departments and community partners.

Washington said today's leaders have a responsibility to nurture and groom young people for the leadership roles they will assume in years to come.

"They have to be able to pick up the reins where we drop them and carry on," she said.

Applications can be picked up at Pine Bluff area high schools and are due by Friday. Students also may apply online at www.cityofpinebluff.com/office-of-the-mayor.

More information is available by calling the mayor's office at (870) 730-2000, Extension 7.

State Desk on 02/11/2019

Print Headline: PB's youth councils an aid to leadership

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