A couple of months back channel-surfing landed me at “The Mayor’s Hour” on CTTV-Channel 15. Sorry, Mayor Pam, but this is how I find you and Jack Harris. I usually stay with it until Harris soon ceases being a cordial facilitator and morphs into a verbose co-host, often restating the obvious. Where’s Tony Danza when we need him?
Anyhow, the focus of that particular show was the Mayor’s Youth Corps, now heading into its third year. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the MYC is comprised of high school students who want to be involved in their community and are drawn to the pursuit of public service. Several were on hand to chat about the experience. None seemed liked budding Brian Blairs or Ronda Storms.
Actually, one would have thought the mayor had ordered out to central casting. These teenagers were uniformly well-scrubbed and well-spoken. No jocks; no cheer-providers; no nerds; no attitudes. Just kids you wouldn’t mind calling your own.
“These are students who are not already involved in 27 other activities,” explains Rebecca Heimstead, the Youth Corps and Volunteer Coordinator. “They are the kind of students who are curious and appreciate the opportunity to know city government on a first-hand basis.
“They have leadership skills, but they understand the need to follow,” adds Heimstead. “They also have a work ethic and can manage their time.”
The latter quality is critical for the spectrum of activities that range from team-building projects, regular meetings and community service to open discussion forums with Mayor Iorio and even the production of a monthly television show, “From the Corps.”
Another common denominator, says Heimstead, is that these students tend to have lofty ambitions, which are typically manifested during interviews.
“They’ll tell you they want to be the first African-American or female president or they want to be governor or an international diplomat,” says Heimstead.
One Class of ’04 alumnus, Nathaniel Betz of Temple Heights Christian School, interned at the U.S. Senate this past summer. Betz, now a student at Colby College in Maine, worked for Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.
And some Corps members get to travel.
Earlier this year Heimstead took several students to San Antonio for a national meeting presentation under the auspices of the National League of Cities. In addition, Heimstead also accompanied students to Washington, D.C. for a National Youth Summit.
“This isn’t the high school equivalent of resume padding,” underscores Heimstead. “They fill an important role. Their input matters. Instead of guessing, we’re actually asking youth what they think or what they want. And, frankly, it’s no less important to have adults see that youth can be responsible and creative.
“These students get to see how things work and be a part of it,” reiterates Heimstead. “These are our emerging leaders.”
I cite this now because the MYC is again looking for a few good teens. Forty Tampa students – freshmen, sophomores and juniors – are selected annually for a one-year term. Applications for the upcoming Class of 2006 are still available at city schools’ guidance offices – and are due by this Friday, Oct. 14.
So, if you’re the parent of a teen who fits the aforementioned criteria but needs a nudge, consider applying it. Tomorrow’s leaders have to come from somewhere. And they might as well be attracted for the right reasons.