The future belongs to those who prepare for it today - Malcolm X.
The future belongs to our children and the teens in the Teen Outreach Program in Pahokee are getting engaged in their community to ensure that their concerns are heard and their vision of a brighter tomorrow is clearly outlined.
For their Community Service Learning Project, teens met with Pahokee City Manager Chandler Williamson to discuss civic restoration, civic engagement, community development and how to self-advocate for the issues they cared about.
Two of the biggest projects on Williamson’s agenda are public works and affordable housing. He has a $4.6 million project rolling out this summer to work on the roads out in the Western community and he wants to see more affordable housing units built in the city as there hasn’t been any new construction of that sort over the past 30 years.
Williamson stresses that in order to change to arrive, the community must work together.
“Bottom line – if you want a mall, a hotel or restaurants? If you want developers to come in and invest in Pahokee,” he said. “You can’t have it look bad. We’ve gotta do our part here first. We’ve got to work together, cleaning up our community and making it look right.”
The concept of collaboration struck a chord and the teens decided to create a youth council – an idea that was approved by Williamson.
The Youth Council would target teens between the ages of 12-17 and advocate on their behalf. Meeting regularly, they will discuss civic issues that matter to the younger residents of Pahokee. One of which is the lack of youth sports in the community. While football reigns supreme in Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee, these teens also want to see an emphasis on other athletics such as track and field, baseball and dance.
“Nothing is nothing unless you advocate for it,” Williamson told the crowd, reiterating that City Hall was their home and that when they are better organized, he would like a chance to meet up again.
“Yesterday was the first scratch in the surface,” said TOP facilitator James Campbell. “Our next step is to form the youth council, partner with Urban League and grow to include teens from every walk of life in Pahokee.”
And it wasn’t just the teens with access to the forum.
Thanks to Keturah Howard, the tech-savvy assistant principal of Pahokee Middle School, parents also got to engage and watch their children dialogue with City Manager Williamson via a Facebook Live stream.
Although Williamson was only scheduled to speak for an hour, he stayed well past his time, answering questions and working with teens to devise solutions.
“Teenagers want an understanding,” said Campbell. “It’s good for the kids to have something tangible. We actually brought local leadership to the teens to have their concerns discussed and I know it will continue. The buck stops in Pahokee.”