By KELLY DANIELS
Local officials are mentoring Starkville students as part of a new initiative to foster leadership skills in youth.
First proposed by Starkville’s city clerk Markeeta Outlaw, the Mayor’s Youth Council hopes to gain insight on how the political world operates.
Council member Emily Damm, who attends Starkville High School, says since she was sworn in, the group has gone through leadership training, done group trust exercises, been a part of community service and attended meetings of the Board of Aldermen.
“We’re learning how the city government works, so we can have better knowledge of government as a whole,” Damm said.
Project coordinator Stefanie Shackelford hopes that the students on the Youth Council understand what it means to give back to their community.
“They have a lot of great ideas and projects they want to do for the City of Starkville,” she said.
Shackelford, who’s worked over 15 years in non-profit youth organizations, said the idea behind the Mayor’s Youth Council is invest in tomorrow’s leaders today.
“These are opportunities some of us didn’t have when we were growing up,” she said.
The 25-member program of students from grades, 9th through 12th, was recruited from Starkville High School, Starkville Academy, Starkville Christian and home school programs.
This coming June, seven of those students will be elected to attend the Youth About Businesses entrepreneurial program at Emory University.
Contestants in the regional competition, where the top three winning teams will compete nationally in New York City.
Along with showing the students the inside story on public administrations, Starkville city officials also hope to learn from the Youth Council how it can improve in leadership.
Mayor Parker Wiseman said the Youth Council, promoted by this year’s Mississippi Municipal League Conference, could provide city government leaders
with a youth perspective that will be helpful in formulating policy.
The Council has similar expectations.
“Previously, the youth didn’t put that much into what was going on,” Damm said.
“Now it’s easier for the youth to communicate what our needs and wants are, so i think it’s going to be very helpful,” she said.