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A voice for young people in Northampton

JACKSON – An effort is underway to start a “youth council” in Northampton County, and it’s being spearheaded by a local student who wants young people’s voices to be heard.

The Northampton County Board of Commissioners considered the proposal at their regular meeting here on May 17.

Zamarieon Alston, a Conway native who just finished up his freshman year at Northampton County Early College, created the youth council proposal and shared the details of his request at the meeting.

“I’m here to present to you something that I believe a lot of young citizens in our county would really enjoy, and would definitely benefit from,” Alston began.

Alston said he’s seen plenty of kids who “went in the wrong direction.” He intends for the program to be a safe way for children and teens to stay out of trouble while also being able to have a voice in their community.

Other goals include promoting civic-mindedness and interest in county affairs, building leadership skills, and helping young people be prepared to pursue higher education or their career choice after high school.

Alston developed a set of detailed bylaws for the youth council, but explained to the commissioners that they’re not yet set in stone and could be changed if necessary.

The bylaws listed several duties and responsibilities of the council, ranging from acting as an advisory board to the county commissioners on youth issues to developing recommendations on ways to ensure young people become healthy and productive members of the community.

Also according to Alston’s proposed bylaws, the youth council would consist of 21 voting members between the ages of 14 to 18 years old, and would be based on applications submitted during a set period. Applicants must reside in Northampton County or attend school within the county. The goal is to ensure racial, socioeconomic, cultural, and educational diversity among the members.

Alston concluded his presentation by noting that there would also be an adult Youth Council Coordinator to help facilitate day-to-day operations of the council.

“I’m very excited about seeing youth in local government and hearing your voice,” said Commissioner Geneva Faulkner after the presentation.

She noted especially that she liked the idea of having a diverse group of members.

“Having an array of youth from all over the county might give a good insight into what your youth needs are in their specific communities,” she explained, “to help collectively improve the outcome for our youth.”

The rest of the commissioners expressed how impressed they were with Alston’s thorough proposal.

Commissioner Nicole Boone suggested looking into some local partnerships for support and guidance as well.

Board Chair Charles Tyner asked Boone and County Attorney Scott McKellar to coordinate with Alston to make sure the council’s bylaws align with all legal requirements. To give them time to work on refining the proposal, the board voted unanimously to table a decision on the matter until August.