June 26, 2015
Thirteen area teenagers have been named to the new Harvest Foundation Youth Board, which will develop projects and initiatives that are important to young people of Henry County and Martinsville.
The new board also will advise the full Harvest board on youth and community-related issues, according to the foundation.
The 13 members were chosen from among 28 applicants for 11 board seats. However, membership was expanded to 13 to better match the demographics of Henry County and Martinsville, according to DeWitt House, program officer with Harvest.
The teenagers chosen include seven females and six males; six students in Henry County Schools, five at Martinsville High School and two from Carlisle School; five seniors, five juniors and three sophomores; and six Caucasians, five African-Americans and two Latinos, he added.
The members are: Cameron Glenn Brummitt, Kendall R. Cope, Taisha DeShazo, Candace S. Foster, Karli E. Foster, Kristel J. Hairston, Mariah A. Holland, Alexandra Hornsby, Cody Mills, Maxwell C. Pinkston, Luis Romero, Ana Paulina Vazquez-Llamas and Phillip J. Williams.
House said he hopes the youth board will create possible proposals for partnerships and/or grants in the early fall. The teens will be charged with coming up with those proposals, so House was reluctant to give examples of possible projects.
“We want them to decide what they feel passionate about,” House said.
However, he did give an example of a possible initiative suggested by one of the teens. The girl described how her involvement in band in high school had helped her in all aspects of her school career, House said.
“It bothered her that there were other talented musicians that couldn’t afford instruments” and other expenses of band membership, he said. “She wanted to partner with other organizations to refurbish band instruments and give them to young kids to instill the love of music.”
The teens were chosen by Harvest President Allyson Rothrock, retired Harvest board member Gracie Agnew and Harvest Program Officer DeWitt House. Agnew and House both are retired educators.
“It was a difficult choice but truly rewarding,” House said of choosing the board members.
The Kiwanis Club of Martinsville is partnering with Harvest on the youth board. Its board unanimously approved a $12,000 contribution over three years and also to provide mentors for the young people during that period, according to Manly Boyd, a member of the Kiwanis Club’s board.
“Kiwanis’ mission is youth, internationally and locally,” Boyd said, adding that the local club has about 30 members. “We wanted to involve ourselves in a worthwhile, longer-lasting project” with a commitment of financial resources and members’ time.
Boyd talked with Harvest about five or six options, and the youth board “bubbled up as something that fit our goals as a club, and members could get involved,” he said.
Informational meetings about the new youth board were held in each area high school in April. Flyers and a short video clip produced by Mike Evans of Martinsville High School also were used during the recruiting period.
Each applicant submitted a résumé, brief essay and two letters from references, and also was interviewed by the committee.
The youth were introduced to the Harvest board on Thursday. They will have orientation sessions in July, which will include such things as tours of local features that the teens might not be aware of, team building instruction, and information in areas such as communications, governance and finance, according to House and information from Harvest.
Formal meetings could begin in early August, House said. The new board will establish bylaws, meeting schedules and operating procedures in addition to electing board officers. It will have an adult adviser, and each board member will be assigned a mentor for ongoing support. Mentors will be current or former Harvest board members.
The board will set goals, and its outcomes will be measured, House said.
Board members will serve a maximum of three years and will rotate off the board when they graduate from high school.
House said he realized the need for such a board when he attended meetings of the youth collaborative, which includes agencies and organizations that deal with youth.
“The one thing that was missing is there were no youth in the room. We’re making decisions and trying to improve (things for youth) but we were not getting feedback from the people who need it most,” he said. “We need to empower these kids to get them involved and let them have skin in the game, or a stake, to get true involvement in terms of what we’re trying to do to improve the community.”
The youth board will receive $25,000 for each of its first three years. House hopes that at the end of that period, the board will be making a difference in the community.
“I hope it will evolve into an organization or group that will wield some influence in the community and makes a difference in activities or projects in terms of how we relate to youth in the community,” he said.
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