Forest Park Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams (far left) with the Teen Council and Gov. Nathan Deal, during a recent visit to the Georgia Capitol. Adams said the purpose of the council is to promote interest in community activities, develop leadership skills, promote fellowship among teens and let them work with city leaders.
New members of Forest Park Teen Council will be sworn into various positions during a ceremony Tuesday night at City Hall.
The 46 students were elected to two-year terms on Feb. 21. Teen Council meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at Forest Park City Hall, using the same chambers as Mayor and Council do every first and third Monday of each month.
Teen Council, created in 2008, is the brainchild of Mayor Pro-Tem Sparkle K. Adams.
“I am offering an alternative that will give students skills, interests and abilities that will be utilized in adult life,” she said. “Members of the Teen Council are familiar with and interact with local elected officials, city manager, city attorney, judges and department managers.”
Adams said she recognized that not all students are athletic or interested in sports. Getting involved in the community through learning about the political process provides an outlet for some of those students.
“There are so many athletic programs that, when played, fill the bleachers with supporters,” she said. “Many students either don’t want to or don’t possess the athletic ability to play sports. God forbid they have an accident that stifles their sports career and they have no other skills to carry them in adulthood.”
The first election was held in February 2010 with 47 students from Forest Park and Babb Middle schools, Forest Park High School and Forest Park Street School electing teens to offices including mayor, council person, finance director and city attorney for each of the city’s five wards.
The goal is community service, said Adams.
“The purposes of this organization are to promote interest in activities,” said Adams, “to develop leadership, to promote fellowship and provide opportunities for members from the various areas to become better acquainted, to discuss problems, to share ideas, skills, work along with the city leaders, plan city activities and share city responsibilities.”
Overseeing the Teen Council is an executive committee composed of high school graduates who are attending or have graduated from college. That committee meets twice a month, independent of the regular Teen Council meetings.
“Through the various community projects, they learn the process of identifying a problem and following through to achieve an equitable and amicable solution,” said Adams. "We study organizational theory using the Tuckman’s model of group dynamics — forming, storming, norming and performing — to understand steps to maximize diversity in organizations.”
In 2009, 2010, and 2011, Teen Council participated in the annual Keep Forest Park Beautiful Clean-Up, said Adams. In 2010, the Council assisted in planting the city’s first community garden. In 2011, the teens were recognized at the Black History Month Celebration called “Rising on The Southside.” The teens also conducted a mock trial focusing on bullying with Clayton County Magistrate Court Judge Allyson Pitts.
“We attended and spoke at the Forest Park City Council meetings, participated in Clayton County Board of Health’s Teen Summit, participated in and graduated from the Forest Park Police Department’s cadet program and attended the Neighborhood Watch meetings,” she said.
The teens also discovered they could combine public service with fun when they sponsored a fashion show last year with clothing made from recycled materials. They also assisted with a 5K Fun Run, the 2011 Halloween Festival and helped out the Forest Park Kiwanis Club with a semi-annual pancake breakfast.
Teen Council is not limited to Forest Park area members, said Adams. A member enrolls if he or she will be 13 by March 1 of the current year. Membership is open to all eligible youth regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation and age, medical or handicapping condition. Teen Council members will gain leadership and public speaking, and organizational skills by planning, conducting and or participating in Forest Park activities.
Forest Park Teen Council is the only organization of its kind in Clayton County. However, a similar group has been formed in Henry County’s Hampton, using Adams’ program as its model.