By Seth Stephens
The Belton Journal
The Belton City Council approved this year’s Youth Advisory Commission (YAC) at their Aug. 28 meeting. The group is an official city board, but it is entirely comprised of students. YAC represents both Belton youth and the city of Belton as a whole through their acts of service.
Matt Bates, City of Belton Interim Recreation and Events Director, serves as the liaison between the nine-member youth board and the city staff.
“It’s a group of kids, ninth grade through twelth,” Bates said. “Youth Advisory Commission is a city board, which means they meet once a month just like any other board.”
YAC will help with several city events throughout the year to accumulate volunteer hours, but most of their time is spent planning and preparing for their largest event which occurs in the spring.
“There is a project that YAC is known for,” Bates said. “We do One Community, One Day. That takes place the first week of April every year. Next year it is April 4.”
The new chair of the board is Nishaneh Lavendra, a senior at Belton High School. Lavendre is a veteran of YAC and is looking forward to his year of serving as board chair and helping plan and coordinate One Community, One Day.
For this event, volunteers are led by YAC to different houses where the owners are disabled, elderly or unable to perform the work that is required to maintain their property. The workers spread out across town and take care of as many homes as they can. Last year, YAC helped 22 houses.
“On the day of, we send out groups of volunteers to different houses, and then they do the repairs and also clean up different parks,” Lavendra said. “So basically it’s a city-wide service project.”
Lavendra has big plans for YAC throughout the next year, as he hopes to make One Community, One Day even bigger than previous years.
“I definitely want to increase the number of houses that we will be helping this year,” he said. “We choose the number of houses we can help out based on the number of volunteers we’re expecting for the event.”
The project is completely planned and run by the students. From now until April, the members of YAC will conduct their own meetings to prepare for the One Community, One Day.
“They run this day themselves,” Bates said. “There is no adult input. They run it on their own from start to finish line. It’s a big project.”
Lavendra encourages students to become involved with YAC by submitting an application and attending their meetings. He said it is also a great way to learn about how a city functions in addition to being a service organization.
“Also I want to get the members of YAC more oriented and involved in city government and make them as aware as possible about how things work,” he said. “It connects youth to the city council and city government and makes them more aware of things actually happening in Belton.”
Students must be a senior in high school before they are eligible to be chair of the Youth Advisory Commission, but Lavendra has enjoyed all of his years being a member of the group.
“It’s one of my favorite activities that I’ve gotten to do during high school,” he said. “It’s such a good community-wide organization that helps out a lot of people. And it’s made me a lot more involved in the city of Belton than I would have been.”