The Lake Norman Teen Council has kicked off its 2014-15 year with a new executive board of teens from local schools. Already, the council has many plans to serve the community and hold social outings throughout the school year.
The council, advised by the parks and recreation departments of Cornelius, Huntersville and Davidson, meets 6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at Bailey Middle School. Last year, there were about 50 active members in grades 6 through 12, said John Anderson of Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture.
Each month, the teens have two meetings and at least two service opportunities, one fundraising opportunity and a social outing. The meetings are free to attend. Teen members do not have to pay dues, but do have to sign a participation contract and are encouraged to buy an official T-shirt to wear to meetings. Anderson said members should participate in at least half of the opportunities offered by the organization.
Meetings start with 30 minutes of snacks and socializing, followed by fun ice-breaker activities to help the teens get to know each other, like playing a few rounds of dodge ball. Then the teen executive board members lead a meeting on official business and close with the opportunity for attendees to sign up for various service projects and activities.
“We (Cornelius, Huntersville and Davidson parks and recreation departments) just felt there wasn’t really anything for a teen to do in the surrounding communities,” Anderson said. “From that we came up with the idea of making a teen council where teens could volunteer in the community as well as going on trips and learning about how the local government operates.
“We visited other state charter youth councils to get a better idea of how the council should operate.”
In 2009, the Lake Norman Teen Council became a charter member of the State Youth Council. Now, teens are given the opportunity to run the show; the executive board of eight members elected by their peers plan and coordinate service opportunities, fundraising and other activities.
This year’s executive board consists of Hough High School students Sean Steward, board chairman; Kaila Treon, vice chairman; Caroline Webb, secretary; Jackson Michael, treasurer and program director; and high school program committee members Matt Alfers and David McCall. From North Mecklenburg High School, Jordan Raszeja also serves as a high school program committee member. Bailey Middle School student Madi Treon serves as the middle-school program committee member.
Sean Steward and Jackson Michael, both seniors, said they completed more than 100 hours each of community service last year as Lake Norman Teen Council members. Both individually incorporated their experiences with the council into the college application essays they have been working on.
“I really like the closeness of (the Teen Council). … School clubs can feel dry and restricted,” said Steward. “But we have the freedom to do what we want in the community. It’s a more relaxed environment.”
On the agenda for fall and winter are lots of opportunities to volunteer in the community, from church events and Laketoberfest to ongoing tutoring of children at the Ada Jenkins Center. Often volunteering duties involve running kids’ activites, face painting and selling concessions. Members have participated in an All-American Dog Show and a fire prevention event at the Cornelius Fire Department.
Planned outings include the Amazing Maize Maze, go-karting and the team building-themed State Youth Conference in January.
At the most recent meeting, board members invited council members to suggest service opportunities and plan outings for spring.
The teens earn points through participation, receiving the most for completing service projects. Points can also be earned in ways such as bringing refreshments to certain events. The points can be converted into tangible benefits, such as only paying 50 percent of the cost of attending the State Youth Conference.
Jackson Michael, who has been a council member since he was in the seventh grade, said his favorite thing about the council is “mostly the people here. You get to know a lot of people. … I never would have met most of these people because they go to different schools.
“The council has changed me.”
The Lake Norman Teen Council welcomes new members. They are seeking more middle-school age members for long-term involvement, because the members who are high school seniors this year will move on next year.