September 16, 2016
With its first, largely organizational year behind it, the Harvest Foundation Youth Board is ready to start working to make a difference in the community.
That is the consensus of Youth Board officers who lead the board for 2016-2017. They were nominated by outgoing members of the Youth Board and voted on by the full board on June 11.
The officers — Max Pinkston, chairman; Karli Foster, vice chairperson; Kendall Cope, secretary; and Kristel Hairston, treasurer — agreed in recent interviews that the 13-member Youth Board has learned organizational skills, how to make grants and how to put aside personal interests to work together for common goals in its first year.
The board is charged with awarding grants and developing initiatives or projects related to youth. Its members also serve as advisers to the full Harvest Board of Directors on youth and community issues.
“Last year we connected with the community and focused on getting our name out,” Foster said. “This year we want to get engaged with the community” through such things as having booths at the Oktoberfest event and Fast Track trade show, volunteering with local races and other activities.
“Last year was a learning process” in which members learned to work together and bond, said Pinkston. “That was really good since board members are so tightly knitted. We set our values aside, and it was great to see that happen in a board full of youth. We all have our wants and things we respect. We all see the true value when we work together.”
Cope said that was evident when the board considered adopting a logo. One member was assigned to design a logo, and “he came up with an excellent logo,” Cope said.
When he presented his design to the Youth Board, another member suggested changes and ultimately combined both ideas to create a successful logo, Cope said. The design has the word “Harvest” and the foundation’s logo above a line, and Youth Board below it, in a lighter type font.
“The main thing I learned (in the board’s first year) is that every board member has different opinions. One of the things that make our outcomes so great and special is when we combine all different opinions,” he added. “Part of being on the board is that we’re all very open and used to taking each other’s ideas” without being upset at differences.
Hairston also said that during the board’s first year, members became more comfortable with being leaders in the community.
That “built up to the point of accepting leadership positions,” said Hairston, who, as treasurer, will be responsible for tracking the board’s spending.
She added that she is proud that one of the board’s first grants was to the Martinsville-Henry County YMCA to help fund swimming lessons for local first-graders.
That program “advocates well for what we stand for — youth and giving them opportunities,” Hairston said.
Pinkston said that now that board members know what they are capable of, “we are looking forward to the board taking off.” That means awarding more grants in the coming year, which several officers said is a priority.
“We can advertise that we’re open for business and would love to give grants,” he said, adding that the board expects grant requests to increase this year as more people become aware of the Youth Board and its resources.
Last year, the board’s first grant was for $2,500 to Richard’s Dinner, a free community Christmas dinner that served about 1,000 people. The Youth Board had hoped to hold its own Thanksgiving dinner that year, but it was late in starting and instead decided to help fund the existing Richard’s Dinner and worked with the event’s volunteers to learn how to put on such an event, Foster said.
With the lessons they learned, Youth Board members now are getting committees together and planning this year’s community Thanksgiving eve dinner, Pinkston said, adding that the dinner is planned as the Youth Board’s “signature event.”
Creating that event “is a good accomplishment” for the board, added Foster, who, as vice chairperson, will assist the chairman as needed and fill in when he is not present.
Other specific priorities and efforts of the board will be determined by grant requests brought to it, according to Pinkston and Cope. The Youth Board has capped grants to be awarded at $5,000.
Several officers also said they hope to help local young people realize how much the community has to offer.
Now that the board members have become more involved in the community, “we know the community has a lot to offer and it’s a matter of getting it out there,” Foster said. The board can do that by funding and taking part in events that showcase the area, such as those at the Smith River, the Smith River Sports Complex, Philpott Lake and Oktoberfest, she added.
Cope, who, as secretary, said he will be responsible for keeping the board’s records accurately, said he has learned about a lot of those opportunities during the past year. For instance, he had not known that the area has a tourism office through the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and that the Harvest Foundation has done extensive work with the sports complex and local nonprofit organizations, he said.
The Youth Board can help residents realize all the area has to offer, including free events and activities, Hairston said.
"I think a lot of times they (youth) feed off the opinions of everyone else and don’t really look into it,” she said.
This year, Hairston said, she hopes the Youth Board will “get more community exposure and find more ways to target and help youth in our community. We have a lot of plans I’m excited to see unfold.”
Pinkston said he also hopes to see the board’s three committees — health, education and community outreach — become more active this year by reviewing grant requests before they come to the Youth Board.
He added that the biggest challenge facing the board now is getting its five new members, who took the place of the five who retired from the board after they graduated from high school, up to speed. The five took their seats on the board Aug. 1.
They are “coming into the same situation we did last year without a lot of knowledge of what they are getting into,” he said.
For that reason, activities are planned for all the board members to help them learn to work together, Pinkston said.
Pinkston, who will lead the board as chairman and preside over board meetings, is a senior at Martinsville High School and a dual enrollment/AP student. He is an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America who led the construction of a children's play area at the new Rooster Walk site in Axton.
He also is a member of The Order of the Arrow, Scouting's National Honor Society; Key Club; National Beta Club; Technology Student Association (secretary, 2014-15); and varsity soccer, swim and golf teams. He took part in the Virginia High School League Leadership Conference this year; the Montreat Youth Conferences and Planning Board; and was a youth adviser to the Session, First Presbyterian Church (2013-14).
“I love doing everything I’m part of and take pride in all I do,” he said, adding that not all organizations are active at the same time. But, he added, “the Hardest board is my main organization for this coming up year.”
Forster is a junior at Bassett High School. She was a page in the Virginia Senate in 2013, on the Henry County Schools Superintendent’s Student Advisory Board 2012-2015, Bassett High School Band 2013-2015, Student Council Association 2014-2016, sophomore class representative 2015-2016 and Academic Competition Math Team 2014-2015.
She is a member of Beta Club, National Honor Society and the Bassett High School swim team, is involved in 4-H and has volunteered with numerous events and groups. This summer, she was selected to attend the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership’s High School Leaders Program at the University of Virginia.
Cope is a junior at Bassett High School. He was Junior Beta Club treasurer (August 2013-May 2014); received a perfect score on the geometry Standards of Learning test, the second person since 2009; and is a Beta Club member. He has volunteered with the Faith Fellowship, Patrick County Library, SPCA and Bassett High School.
In the 2016-17 school year, he will be junior editor for the BHS yearbook.
Hairston is a senior at Magna Vista High School. She is a member of the National Beta Club, National Society of Black Engineers, school show choir, MHC After 3, CHILL/RELATE and V.O.I.C.E. (Warrior Tech Academy), among other things, and is a Warrior Tech Academy tour guide.
She has volunteered with Martinsville/Henry County 4-H, the Society of Black Engineers and the Beta Club.