Liberty County Commissioner Justin Frasier is looking for ways to get youth more involved in the community, saying they are not only the future but the present.
Frasier presented ideas for youth development to the commission a couple of months ago and recently expanded on the ideas in an interview with the Coastal Courier. There are three main programs Frasier wants to develop: a youth commission, quarterly youth summits and the county-wide expansion of Career Readiness, Riceboro’s annual summer youth program.
The youth commission would educate youth in policymaking and get them to help plan community activities and services. Other counties already have such commissions. Frasier said Chatham County and Savannah were among the first in the state to implement a youth commission. Since then, more than a dozen counties, including those in metro Atlanta, have used the same model.
Requirements to be a member of the youth commission include: nomination from a teacher, counselor, school administrator, commissioner or civic leader; attending a high school in the county; and completing an application.
“We don’t want to have a youth commission that has so many guidelines and so many requirements that it might weed out the ones who might not reach those requirements, but really want to be involved with something of this nature,” he said. “We’re trying to get the best and the brightest. The best and the brightest are not always by grades on tests. But passion, hard work and dedication will go farther than someone who is just smart, if that’s all they are.”
Frasier also hopes to eventually form a council for middle schoolers.
Over the youth commission and council will be an advisory committee made up of county commissioners, volunteers and county employees.
Frasier wants the youth commission to help plan recreation.
“As adults, we’re quick to say what kids need. But I think kids know what they need more than adults. We (the county) have money set aside for recreation, but that’s the only money we have set aside for the youth,” he said.
In the past, Frasier has proposed a family entertainment center. He said youth could be employed at the center, if it is ever developed.
The Career Readiness summer internship program gives youth insights into careers and a chance to be a part of the workforce. Participants are hired at various jobs in the county and Riceboro, and are paid. Riceboro City Councilman Chris Stacy, who heads the program, has said he hopes to expand and include all the cities. Frasier agreed.
“If a city that small can hire (around) 20 kids every year, what could we do if we combined the other municipalities and got their support on top of the county’s? We could have 100 kids all throughout the county working. We can’t talk about the crime that increases during the summer time if we don’t have things for the kids to do during the summer,” he said.
Frasier intends to start quarterly youth summits next year. He said they would help youth address issues they encounter daily. The commissioner wants to provide a setting where youth feel comfortable talking about their issues with adults, who can help with those issues.
The first summit will focus on criminal justice, with speakers from the Liberty County Sheriff's Office, police officers, attorneys and ex-convicts who have turned their lives around.
The second, will be about education. There will be a college fair, in which parents and their children can talk to educators, college professors and local teachers.
Economic development will be the third youth summit.
“Many people don’t get to understand economic development until a later point in their life,” Frasier said. “If I knew what I know now, I would have spent my college refund checks differently.”
He plans to have financial advisers and small-business owners discussing the process of starting a business. Frasier said many high school students want to be small-business owners but don’t know where to begin.
The last summit will focus on government. Local officials will talk about how government affects the lives of residents.
Frasier plans to have the youth commissioners co-host the summits.
“The youth commission will help me host the youth summits as well. Once we get them established, they will be really, really busy,” Frasier said. “These three points in youth development will help us take it in that direction. Our future is bright in Liberty County, but we need to make sure we keep the light on.”
When Frasier presented his ideas to the county commissioners, he described the conversation as healthy and supportive. There were budgetary concerns, however.