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Oak Ridge teens work together to enhance city's youth appeal.

The City of Oak Ridge recognizes its youth as a priceless resource, and provides them with a broad range of school, athletic and community functions to foster and enrich their development.

The youth of the community, however, often seek additional activities through which they may exercise their creativity and exert an enhanced leadership role. In response to this need, and through the combined efforts and vision of several Oak Ridge High School students and members of the Oak Ridge City Council, the concept of a Youth Advisory Board was approved in the winter of 1991 to produce and implement youth programs suitable for both junior and senior high students, with an emphases on drug- and alcohol-free activities.

This new Board promotes the concept of "youth doing for youth." It answers directly to the City Council and is comprised of teenagers residing in the community. The Board functions as a liaison between Oak Ridge youth and the City Council. In addition, a City Recreation and Parks Department staff member supports the Board's activities and provides the coordination to allow it to function to its greatest potential. The City's commitment to the Youth Advisory Board concept has been confirmed with a pledge of approximately $40,000 to support the Board's activities during its first year.

After a preliminary work session and months of planning, the organization and direction of the Board began to materialize, The size of the Board was set at fourteen youths; 4 each were chosen from grades 10, 11 and 12, plus the student government presidents of the two junior high schools, and an adult advisor. The 10th, 11th and 12th grade members would be elected each May by their peers and would take office in July for one year terms.

Two resolutions approved by the City Council established the makeup of the Board, defined its functions and their implementation, and drafted its bylaws. The Board receives direction from City Council, who envisions the members as functioning in both an advisory capacity and as a sponsor of activities and programs.

In compliance with that directive, the Board must develop an annual work plan for City Council's approval and then oversee and planning and implementation of those activities accepted by the Council. According to the Resolution, the Board," ... will assist in minimizing community problems relating to youth, and encourage the positive growth and development of youth by involving them in healthy, enlightening, empowering, social, cultural, and recreational activities that shall be drug and alcohol free. The Board, subject to the authority granted by City Council, shall make decisions concerning its programs, budgets, publicity and community relations activities." All community and area youth are eligible to participate in activities arranged or organized by the Board.

The Youth Advisory Board was adopted by City Council on December 10, 1992 and became an active Board on July 1, 1992. Prior the May elections, it was necessary to select an Interim Board to assist in the planning and managing of Oak Ridge's annual spring Mayfest Celebration. The Interim Board consisted of six high school seniors chosen from the group who had participated in the initial efforts to establish the Youth Advisory Board.

A "Battle of the Bands" for the teen population, to be part of the Mayfest, was the first project for the interim Board to tackle. This provided the fledgling interim Board with an opportunity to jump right in and "get their feet wet" by planning and participating in a major special event. With the support, guidance, and enthusiasm of the Recreation and Parks Department staff advisor, a Chairperson and subcommittees were selected to deal with stage crews, sound equipment, concessions, judging, and the countless details involved in presenting such a competition. Months of planning, coordinating and hard work produced a successful event with a minimum of problems. Additionally, a maturing group of young adults and learned a good deal about recruiting, communicating, and organizing a complex event within a set of defined guidelines and expectations. They had also laid the groundwork for future projects and made their first contribution toward building a Youth Advisory Board tradition

Finally, with the help of the interim Board, and after extensive meetings and interaction at the schools on the part of the newly- appointed Recreation and Parks Department staff advisor, the elections were held at the High School and the junior high schools on May 19th for 1992-1993 Youth Advisory Board. The new Board was presented to and appointed by City Council on June 1 and the oath of office was administered to them on June 5, 1992.

During their first formal meeting on July 6, 1992, the Board members, along with their adult advisor, defined a plan of action that included a summary of possible activities for the coming year. Discussed were the 1993 Battle of the Bands, after football game dances, concerts, after graduation lock-in, video dance parties, family picnics, summer activities in the park and educational workshops.

They are off to a good start. Community support from both youth and adults has been positive, and this new undertaking has captured the interest and enthusiasm of Oak Ridgers. The success of this venture will accrue benefits not only to the students of Oak Ridge, but to the City itself and to other progressive communities seeking such approaches to reach, to involve, and to enrich tomorrow's adults by effectively confronting today's challenges. We wish them well! ?
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Small Cities; Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Author:Pruett, Roy
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 17, 1992
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