Journalism Next from Braden River High School: An overview of the Manatee County Youth Commission

Special to the HeraldFebruary 4, 2013 

High school is a period of time where students strive to become involved, both in their own schools and their community. Manatee County Youth Commission gives students the unique opportunity to be "brought to the table" in political decisions that impact their own future.

The Manatee County Youth Commission is based on the simple idea of youth involvement. This group connects high school students with local government officials and other policy-making entities.

The students in the group are the "link between the teenage voice and the policy makers of Manatee County," says junior Victoria Najmy.

With input of the Manatee County Youth Commission, government officials get a clear understanding of the issues facing the next generation. Students in the club have the opportunity to assist in gathering local data to help policy makers, assist in the legislative process, and help government representatives understand the youth needs and concerns in our community.

The students in MCYC receive community service hours, valuable leadership skills, great collaborations with guest speakers, and

opportunities to work directly with local government officials. Students also gain the opportunity to work with like-minded students in an intimate environment

Junior Marcella Richardson says, "My eyes were opened to the many issues faced in Manatee County. The club has given me the opportunity to help the community; a benefit that I might not have been able to achieve on my own."

As a part of the club, members were able to go to the Red Ribbon breakfast, where they were able to ask questions about important issues in the area to local representatives. One of the club members, Ella Biggins, was interviewed on the ABC 7 Sunrise Show with Haley Wielgus.

The group's dedicated leader, Dr. Jessica Spencer, works, "innumerable amounts of hours in order to keep the group functioning, connected, engaged, and informed," she says.

Spencer was interviewed over Skype from Rhode Island last spring to take the position of leader. Shortly after the interview she was hired, and she relocated to Manatee County. Through her involvement with the Manatee County Youth Commission, Spencer has formed bonds with many of the students who participate.

She adds, "This is a group of dynamic high school students that are simply amazing! I am thrilled to be their leader."

Junior Savannah Cummings suggests the club to prospective members. "It is an amazing opportunity. If you're looking to go into any sort of politics, or just want to get involved, it is a great start in putting yourself out into the real world."

To become a member of the Youth Commission for the 2013-14 school year, students can go online to www.manateeyouthcommission.com for applications. Applications are accepted in the spring for the following school year. Students must be in 8th, 9th, or 10th grade when they apply. The application includes several thought provoking essay topics.

For any additional questions, students can contact Dr. Spencer at jspencer@drugfreemanatee.org.

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