By STEVEN NALLEY
On Sunday, 40 youth from across Oktibbeha County will take an oath and commit to community service. They will vow to engage citizens to make a difference in the community and make Starkville a better place.
The Mayor’s Youth Council will hold an induction ceremony for new members Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Starkville City Hall courtroom.
Together with 11 returning members, the inductees bring the MYC to 51 students, more than double the 25 students who formed the city’s first MYC in 2010. Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said he was impressed with the MYC’s first year, which included service-oriented events, conferences with other youth from around the state and other activities.
“It’s been incredible,” Wiseman said. “I didn’t know exactly what to expect because it was a new organization last year, but it blew me away. It was a very good experience for them, and it was a very good experience for me.”
New events are on tap for this year as well, Wiseman said.
“They’re actually going to do a mock city government exercise in which they take on different roles in city government,” Wiseman said, “which I think is a really neat way for them to learn about how city government operates.”
Stephanie Shackelford, MYC director, said the number of student applications has also doubled from 35 last year to 70 this year. While the MYC has always been open to all school systems in the county, she said a greater effort was made this year to generate interest from more of these school systems.
“We wanted to make sure we offered the program to more youth to give them the opportunity to gain more knowledge about civic government, local government, as well as develop leadership skills,” Shackelford said. “We have 10 from Starkville Academy, two from Starkville Christian, three from East Oktibbeha and then 35 from the high school, Starkville High, and one home-schooled student.”
Markeeta Outlaw, city clerk and MYC coordinator, said the selection process for the MYC includes an application and two interviews, one with senior members of the council and another with its advisory committee.
“We’re not looking for someone that has necessarily has any (student) government experience, Outlaw said. “We’re looking for kids with the enthusiasm. We were looking for those that wanted to get involved in the community; wanted to make a difference in the community.”
Outlaw said the growth of the MYC shows how many of Starkville’s youth are interested in local government.
“It’s phenomenal,” Outlaw said. “They’re interested in the community; they’re interested in recycling; they’re interested in giving back. They want to be known as a positive influence in the community. It will give the teenagers a little more of an organized voice into the community.”
Wiseman said both the MYC organizers and returning members could be credited with the group’s growth.
“I think it’s grown because of its success. The kids that participated last year went back to their peers and generated a lot of interest,” Wiseman said. “The organizers of the program were very proactive in going to the schools, talking to guidance counselors and encouraging them to encourage students to apply for it.”