Young activist working to form youth council in Zebulon

csmith@newsobserver.comJune 3, 2013 

— Sitting at her house in September, Jasmine Porter was motivated to help her community after reading about the Raleigh Youth Council.

The sophomore in early college at N.C. State’s Centennial campus attended Zebulon Middle School and goes to the local Boys & Girls Club, making her no stranger to the teen scene in the area. She immediately reached out to the Zebulon Parks and Recreation Department to see if she could help the town form a youth council of its own.

Porter then walked from her house to Town Hall to meet with Mayor Bob Matheny, and spoke with him several times to get the initiative started.

Zebulon Community Center Coordinator Sheila Long, who is working with Porter to start the council, said she was instantly motivated to help when she heard Porter’s story.

“We were very impressed with her idea and her drive from the very start,” Long said. “We wanted to do as much as we could to help out and have done some promotions, but other than that this was all her idea.”

For Porter, forming the council will be a good way to help get younger members of the community involved in sports and recreational activities.

“I know that there are a lot of sports programs with the parks and recreation department and we plan to get involved with that,” Porter said. “We want to help the town in any way we can, and getting youth involved in sports and fitness is a major problem in America right now.”

One of the greatest areas Porter wants the council to focus on is bullying. As a former track and soccer athlete, Porter plans on motivating young athletes in the area to go against putting others down.

“I’ve seen firsthand what bullying can do to people,” Porter said. “I know that some of the people on my team would feel like they weren’t good enough and would either quit or not show up to practice. I think targeting that specifically would be an excellent idea.”

A first interest meeting was held last Thursday to get a better understanding of what the focus will be for the group, and another meeting is planned for June 13 at 7 p.m. at the community center.

While Zebulon’s youth council is still in the planning phase, Long plans to use the summer to get organized.

“We don’t have anything set in stone at this point because it is set up specifically for the youth to dictate that,” she said. “So, we’re taking the opportunity at these sessions to see what other communities are doing and giving them the chance to decide if that’s something they are interested in.

“We want feedback and we’re hoping to build the program over the summer so that in September we can get everything really started.”

As for specific goals the council may achieve in the future, Long believes it will be able to help make decisions that reflect the interests of the younger members of the community.

“What the youth council does is focus on issues that relate to the youth,” Long said. “They deal with areas where the youth may need help in ways that adults may not have the ability. The things that they can do are so great and so vast … and give us knowledge of some things we might be overlooking.”

With a good base and plenty of ideas, the organizers of Zebulon’s youth council will continue to work over the summer to build what the council in Raleigh has already achieved. Long knows building the program will take time, but said she is hopeful heading into the summer.

“It’s very touching for me to see that our youth has that want to be a part of something,” she said. “For Jasmine (Porter) to take a leadership role and give our youth a voice is impressive to me. This just shows how blessed we are in this community with the youth we have here.”

Like many youth councils, Zebulon’s program will likely be a catalyst for leadership, civic engagement and community service.

Organizers are encouraging youth ages 12-18 to get involved. They can do so by calling the community center at 919-823-0432.

Smith: 919-829-4841

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