Members already thinking of recycling program, teen center

Teenagers today often seem more engaged in their cell phones than their communities.

Havelock is out to change that by giving teenagers a voice through the Havelock Youth Advisory Committee.

Sworn in last month, the 10 members are already busy, not necessarily solving the world’s problems but trying to solve the ones they see or experience on a daily basis.

One of those is the lack of a student recycling program in schools.

“We have recycling bins at homes and other places, but we don’t have them at schools, and schools waste a lot of stuff, paper, trays, and paper in general,” said Heer Patel, one of the committee members. “So I was thinking if we could get a recycling program started, we could raise some money through the recycling and give back to our community and our ecosystem.

“It’s not just our community but the entire United States. We waste a lot of stuff when it could be recycled.”

The idea is in its infancy.

“We are just developing ideas currently,” Patel said. “We’re researching to see what we’d have to do to get this started. Talk to the recycling firms that go around town.”

Katherine Ashby serves as the chairman of the committee. Members include Patel, Viktoria Alston, Kirah Bryant, Kaheem Frazier, Brianna Garcia, Sabryna Miller, Airianna Thompson, Amber Richards and Xavier Williams. They submitted applications and were selected based on grade point averages, extracurricular activities and an essay.

Another problem they see is the lack of activities for teens.

“We talked about ideas for how to start a teen center off base,” Ashby said. “This would be a place where the teens could go after school and hang out without disrupting the community, and not have parents on them 24-7 but also be supervised. It would give the students something to do.”

The goal would be for the center to be a place where teenagers can socialize in a safe environment.

“We’re deprived of things to do in Havelock,” Patel said. “I’m not saying we walk the streets. We just don’t have anything to do as a community, as a body of students. The only place we can get together is the movie theater, and we can’t talk there.

“We were thinking if we created a facility where students can play ball, or play hop scotch of whatever just to get together, socialize and get their energy out from being at home all day and not having anything to do in Havelock.”

The group meets after school on the third Wednesday of each month in the Havelock High media center. Anyone is welcome to attend and address the group.

“We’re all willing to listen. I know most of us have Facebook pages so if they can’t speak to us face to face, they can message us,” Ashby said. “We’re here almost every day.”

Havelock Commissioner Pete Van Vliet, the father of four children, came up with the idea of the youth committee.

“I think the citizens and the city are going to see a lot of good things come from the Youth Advisory Committee,” he said. “It’s an untapped source, and we are going to have to rein in the energy I believe in a period of time.”

Advisor Natascia Carr, Havelock High’s business and marketing teacher, said she thinks the committee will work well together as a group.

“Students at HHS have a sense of pride in their school and their city,” Carr said. “That common trait really fosters cohesion, and this group of students is no exception. They are culturally diverse and of various ages; however, they are determined to make positive changes to their city, and I believe they will.”

Carr said the students would gain valuable lessons and interpersonal skills in the group.

“So often people are reluctant to really listen to other opinions because we believe our opinion is better; however, that is not always the case,” she said. “I hope these students learn the essential skill of listening as that will help them in all aspects of life.”

Senior Airianna Thompson wants the group to leave its mark.

“It was something new and I wanted to try something different,” she said of being on the committee. “I kind of hope that since it is a new organization that we do something of significance.”

Kirah Bryant, a high school junior, said she felt teenagers in Havelock needed to be heard.

“I wanted to do this because I think it’s important for the youth to have their opinion put out to the community,” Bryant said.

Havelock Mayor Lewis said the first committee would set the tone for others later.

“You have to blaze a path for this year and for every year afterward,” he told them. “We want this to last.”

Van Vliet said the goal of the group is to come up with ideas that can be brought to the Havelock Board of Commissioners.

“To me, it’s to be more inclusive of the youth,” he said. “How do you shape tomorrow’s decisions if you don’t give them the tools to learn?”

Patel said he felt students had a voice, but it often got pushed aside.

“It‘s just that other ideas push it down,” Patel said. “We want to make our voice a little bit more important to the commissioners and the people that run Havelock to tell them that there aren’t just adults living in Havelock. We really see how things work, but we can’t change those things because we’d have a voice.”

Ashby is determined that teen opinions be heard.

“I feel like our voices have been shut down and I want to make sure our voice is heard,” she said. “If they don’t know what we want, how are they speaking on our behalf? They say what they think we want, but they don’t know because they’re not listening to us. If we could get our voice across, we could change some things in Havelock to our benefit and possibly leading to the society’s benefit.”