Youth Council members sworn

Published 10:34 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A new crop of future Suffolk leaders took the oath of office on Monday during a swearing-in ceremony for the Suffolk Youth Advisory Council.

Twelve teenagers joined a group of 13 returning members of the council to take the oath of office at the Planters Club Monday evening, promising to uphold the nation’s and the state’s Constitution and to work to improve the city they call home.

“The Suffolk Youth Advisory Council is a city of Suffolk initiative to ensure that youth have a voice” in their community, Jennifer Branham, the city’s youth services coordinator, told the assembled SYAC members and their parents and other guests.

The Suffolk Initiative on Youth sponsors the advisory council in cooperation with the Department of Parks and Recreation and with the assistance of the Office on Youth.

Members meet twice a month and are present at community events and civic engagements, conducting interviews and surveys and collecting and presenting information in an effort to find and present solutions to problems that affect youth in the community.

“You will provide a voice for all youth on issues that affect not only yours, but everybody’s quality of life in Suffolk,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said during remarks at the ceremony.

Members of the organization, she observed, have participated in Suffolk’s National Night Out, in parades, at back-to-school lock-ins and in other city events throughout the past couple of years.

They also serve as positive role models for their peers, she said, and they have a unique opportunity to be involved in improving their community.

“We look forward to what you have to offer, and we will be listening, and we will take your advice,” she said.

The Youth Advisory Council is charged with advising the City Council on current youth safety issues, developing solutions for those problems, compiling and distributing information to increase awareness of those public safety issues and improving communications between youth and law enforcement officers in Suffolk.

The council includes representatives from Suffolk’s public schools, as well as Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

“I believe in this youth council,” said Benjamin Corbett, a leader in the group last year. “We have done a phenomenal thing coming from almost nothing to where we are today. I hope this year will be more about implementing our ideas and less about finding out what our ideas are.”

New members of the Youth Advisory Council include Alyssa Samuel and Morgan Fix, both of Nansemond River High School; Angel Knight, Deja Lankford, Justin Libbey and Toriano Johnson, all of John F. Kennedy Middle School; Benicia Lovely, Kayla Vincent, Kendra Brywa and Luke Babineau, all of King’s Fork Middle School; and Bryce Dargle and Zachary Dearborn, both of John Yeates Middle School.

They join returning members Amanda Hamm and Michaela Twitty, both of Forest Glen Middle School; Angelica Brown, Benjamin Corbett and Jessica March, all of Lakeland High School; Brendan La Dieu, Fletcher Stephens, Karl Marshall Jr. and McHale Goodman, all of King’s Fork High School; Christian Ellis of John Yeates Middle School; Courtney Lowers and Rashawn McKinney, both of Nansemond River High School; and Kenny Rice of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.