Youth Council making strides in creating activities, options for teens
Less than half a year after its inception the Arlington Youth Council is already creating activities for youth, such as art competitions, and supporting more options for local teens.
Seven local teens formed the council last September and have been working toward their main mission of providing more recreation and activities for teens in the community.
"The drug awareness is kind of why we're doing all these different events, to give teens more options instead of resorting to drugs," said Arlington Youth Council member Alec Villa.
With some of their funds they've purchased a giant "human foosball" inflatable, where people can step inside and actively participate in a large version of the tabletop soccer game.
The inflatable, which can be put up and taken down at different locations easily, can help add something that interests teens to local parks and summer events.
"We decided that would be a fun idea," said Arlington Youth Council member Cole Cramer. "We can put it at different events for outdoor fun."
The council also plans to launch a street art contest in early March with help from the Arlington Arts Council.
As part of the contest, Arlington students in grades 6 to 12 can submit a piece of art around the theme of "Aspire to Inspire" and the winner will be able to paint their art on a wall in Arlington where it will remain.
"I really wanted to involve youth who are artists in the community. We have a lot of youth in sports and theater and drama, but the artists don't have a lot of recognition," said Arlington Youth Council member Morgan Bryson.
"I love street art, I think it's beautiful and it would bring an interesting aspect to the area," she said.
Villa also hopes to support more sports coming to the area, especially for the lesser-supported ones.
"I wanted to do this because I am a competitive swimmer and that's something we don't have in Arlington," he said. "I want to broaden the sports for those kids who play sports that we don't have."
The council has also been working to support the activities already available to local teens.
"Just making them [other teens] aware of what's going on in their community, because there's so much that I didn't know," said Bryson.
Part of that goal is supporting the opening of the planned Teen Center at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club.
The club also has new music and recording technology that the council hopes to promote.
"I know a lot of kids would love a recording studio to have their music downloaded," said Bryson.
Working with the club the council members hope to create lessons to show local youth how to use the recording equipment.
The Arlington Youth Council was created as a result of Arlington and Darrington's participation in the America's Best Communities competition and their funds come from those contest funds.
"This is something we've talked about for a long time, probably before I was mayor," said Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert.
"Once we were doing the ABC, that's something we pushed for because that's something that would make it happen, and then once we had it we knew it would last past the contest," she said.
Tolbert said she hopes the council can also keep Arlington officials in touch with the teenagers in the region.
"The council has always been curious about the voice of the youth, particularly when we face social issues in town, or whenever you hear of vandalism or drug use, and hearing all the young people that can be impacted by that," she said.
She said she's been impressed with the first council and is excited about the possibilities for their future.
"I hope [the council] becomes a meaningful part of how teenagers feel about their hometown," she said.
The youth on the council said they have enjoyed learning how the local government actually operates.
"I've learned how everything is based off of your government," said Cramer.
"Just really getting to understand what's going on behind the scenes in our government," said Bryson, who also joked that she has learned "why government takes so long."
Bryson, who is looking forward to college next year, said the experience has also made her consider getting into politics or government work.
Although she said her family has always been a little "apolitical," working with the Arlington Youth Council helped show her how change can be made in the system.
"I just think it's really exciting just to make a difference," she said.
More information about the local youth council is available on their Facebook page at facebook.com/ArlingtonWaYouthCouncil.