TRIUMPHANT RETURN: Columbia City Youth Council reconvenes

COLUMBIA CITY — Nine students from Columbia City High School and Eagle Tech Academy toured City Hall before beginning a brainstorming and planning session Thursday for the inaugural meeting of the Columbia City Youth Council.“The youth council was kind of an idea I wanted to incorporate into our government to get more of the youth voice into the planning for our future,” said Mayor Ryan Daniel. “As we’ve met today, it’s clear to me that these youths want to do more than just give a voice to their age group. It’s clear that they really want to give back in some way to the community.”Daniel said the teen council is a joint effort between himself and Dr. Patricia O’Connor, superintendent of Whitley County Consolidated Schools. Missy Gregg will be attending meetings with the students, as she works to watch over the students. Daniel, who formed a committee to select students to serve on the council for the 2012-13 school year said, “We’re actually already planning projects. As the year goes on, we’ll be able to do some community-type projects with these groups that they want to do, and then as we talk about policy matters, they’ll be able to give their input.”In the past, there used to be a youth council under Columbia City Mayor Jim Teghtmeyer, and Daniel said he hopes this kind of youth representation will be a permanent situation.“Ultimately, they represent what our next generation of citizens are going to be,” said Daniel. “As we look forward to how we position our community for growth and development in the future, we should probably also think about those individuals who are going to be living here in the future so that’s the role that they play in planning for the future growth.”As the youths, including Gabrielle Anglin, Brett Roberts, Morghan Wilcoxson, Kiersten Thomas, Stacey Quinn, Emily Lewis, Miranda Cooper, Hunter LaRue and Eryn Schinbeckler began brainstorming, their focus for many of their projects and the issues they want to dig deeper into focused on youth recreation.“We have a Facebook page coming out for the Youth Council as we try to get the community to know what we’re doing and they can comment,” said Youth Council Member Morghan Wilcoxson. “We have a downtown walk we are working on that we’re going to go down to businesses and talk to them. We also are reaching out to the fifth graders in May during government week.”Each of the members are upperclassmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, who are motivated to lend a hand and an ear to their community. “We’re just trying to get out and help the community, by doing little things that can help out and make a difference,” said Schinbeckler.The students each shared several reasons they feel the experience will help them as well as their community.