October 20, 2015
The Harvest Foundation Youth Board is giving young people a voice in the community they did not have before, according to the board’s chairman.
“I don’t think youth really had a voice before. I hope it encourages that and gets youth more involved in the community. I’d love to return to Martinsville after college and after I build my career and family. I want to see Martinsville bloom,” said Chairman Paulina Vazquez, a senior at Martinsville High School who aspires to be a dentist.
The Youth Board was created by the Harvest Foundation to develop projects and initiatives that are important to young people of Henry County and Martinsville. It also will advise the full Harvest board on youth and community-related issues, according to the foundation.
The board’s $29,000 budget is being funded by the Harvest Foundation and the local Kiwanis Club.
“We are excited about the confidence the Harvest Board and staff have in the Youth Board. We are happy that we get to make our own decisions. Now we have to work hard to get our processes and procedures in place in order to have the impact we want on our community,” Vazquez said.
Board Vice Chairman Cameron Brummitt, a senior at Magna Vista High School, said he became involved in the board to be part of efforts to help area young people.
“I get to make a difference” through the board, he said, citing issues such as obesity in the area. “I see a lot of things we could help change. … With this (board), we get a say so, to voice our own opinion. We have the resources to make things happen in the community.”
The board is entirely student-run, with Harvest program officer DeWitt House and retired Harvest board member Gracie Agnew providing guidance. Harvest President Allyson Rothrock also attended a recent meeting and offered advice on a few topics.
Vazquez led that session according to Roberts’ Rules of Order. It was the group’s first meeting with its elected officers.
“It’s so exciting,” Vazquez said shortly before the meeting. “This is a great thing because many youth of today have the wrong impression of Martinsville. … Martinsville is a great place to live.”
Other Youth Board officers are Karli Foster, secretary and communications; and Mariah Holland, treasurer.
The 13 members of the Youth Board come from high schools in Henry County, Martinsville and Carlisle. They were chosen from among 28 applicants by House and Agnew, both retired educators, and Rothrock.
Some of the members knew each other before they were named to the board, but most did not. Foster said they have become close.
“They are all very outgoing and determined,” said Foster, a sophomore at Bassett High School who hopes to be a lawyer, a senator and then a judge in the future. “They all want to … get stuff done.”
In the board’s first year, Foster and others said they would like to see it become known in the community.
To get its name out, the Youth Board initially plans to give out candy at the Halloween “Trunk or Treat” event at Jack Dalton Park on Oct. 31 and create a float for the annual Christmas Parade.
Foster said she also hopes the board will be able to raise awareness of — and opportunities for — local recreational opportunities for youth.
“A lot of people don’t know about them,” she said, mentioning tubing on the Smith River, kayaking, canoeing and activities at the Smith River Sports Complex. “We need to get what’s in the community out there … and get activities known to the community.
Holland, a junior at Martinsville High School, also said she would like to see area residents more excited about living here.
“It’s a wonderful place, with a lot of potential. It is up to us to make it a better place,” said Holland, who hopes to go to law school and become a defense attorney in the future.
She said the Youth Board is a good opportunity to help the area.
“Youth could be more capable because they are more in touch with what people like or are interested in,” Holland added.
Like the others, Brummitt wants to have the Youth Board become better known to attract more interest in the Harvest Foundation and possibly more sponsors “hopefully to do bigger things.”
He hopes to become a sports medicine physician, and said the leadership skills he can learn from the board could help him in the future. It also will give the board members more experience at making decisions and taking responsibility for them, something they will have to do as adults, he added.