Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Forest Park Teen Council meets in the same chambers the City Council meets.
Angenetta Williams sat proudly Tuesday night with a roomful of other parents to watch her daughter take the oath of office of Forest Park Teen Council for a second term.
“She has matured so much, her whole train of thought is different,” said Williams. “Being involved in Teen Council has helped her set priorities and take her future more seriously.”
Williams’ daughter, Anastasia Star, was one of about 20 members of Teen Council to take the oath of office as administered by Judge Allyson Pitts. Some were taking the oath for the first time but Star is a veteran. She joined the program about two years ago, out of sheer boredom.
“I thought it would be fun and I was not doing anything else with my spare time,” she said after Tuesday’s ceremony at Forest Park City Hall. “I have really enjoyed it, especially the Cherry Blossom Festival, the fashion show and visiting the Georgia Capitol.”
Teen Council is the brainchild of Forest Park Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams and is the only such program in Clayton County.
“It is important to me as a leader to mentor,” she said. “So often, we in the community come in the door and go out the door and only get affected by the things that affect us personally. So I stepped up to mentor them. Once you learn how to be a leader, it makes you a better citizen, spouse, companion, brother or sister.”
Valerie Larkin also attended the ceremony to see her son, Philip, take the oath. She, too, has seen the changes in him as a result of his participation.
“I’ve seen him develop into a young man because of his relationships with the other members of Teen Council,” she said. “When it comes to the Teen Council events, he’s the one dragging me out the door, not wanting to be late. It’s good to see the motivation he has about this program.”
Many of the members of Teen Council are students at Forest Park High School. Principal Derrick Manning said he is proud to support the program.
“I think this is a perfect example of the school working with the community for the betterment of the entire community,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed with the success.”
Jarius Leavy, 18, is new to Teen Council. Elected three weeks ago, he took the oath of office Tuesday. His post-high school plans include earning a degree in criminal justice and becoming a police officer.
“I think I can use everything I learn here to help me in my career,” he said. “In just three weeks, it’s bringing out my confidence and teaching me to speak in public less nervous and not as fidgety. We are working on speaking skills and interviewing skills. I know I will take everything I learn here and put it in my personal life.”
Like Star, David Hickson, 16, is a veteran of Teen Council. He got involved two years ago through a friend.
“I saw an opportunity for college and leadership roles,” said Hickson. “I am learning how to better express myself, too. I’d like to be a chef or get into technology, and everything I’ve learned here will help with that.”
Adams spent most of her life in the military, and as a criminal analyst for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, far from the world of education and students.
“If anyone had told me several years ago, I’d be working this closely with children, I’d say they were crazy,” she said. “But I love it. People may wonder why we don’t focus on things like bullying or sex or drugs. Not that those things aren’t important to teenagers but these teens have more to offer than that. We’re helping build them into leaders.”
Upcoming events include a Teen Career Focus Day where students can learn interviewing skills and resume writing.
“We’re going to teach them how to get a job, how to keep a job and how to act on the job so you don’t get fired,” said Adams. “You all have to look for upward mobility, and what to do with skills from other jobs.”
Another planned event will be a tour of the postal inspection services facility, a neighborhood clean-up and Super Saturday, a park-centered activity.
Forest Park police Officer W. Randall announced the formation of an Explorers club that will meet weekly during the summer.
“The more positive teenagers can get into, the less time they will have for the negative,” said Randall. “The Explorers will learn about law enforcement, use of force, crime-prevention efforts and Juvenile Court. We’ll also take ideas from teenagers about what they want to talk about.”
It all sounds good to Williams, who can’t say enough about the positive effect Teen Council has had on her daughter.
“Her self-esteem is high, even her mannerisms have changed,” said Williams. “She’s increased her skills in etiquette, she’s more independent. I’m so proud of her. She’s looking at colleges now, we’re looking for scholarships. Her decision-making process is even greater than before. This has helped her set priorities and take her future seriously.”
Teen Council meets every second and fourth Tuesday in Forest Park City Council Chambers.