The Youth Take Charge in Indianola
For Jermeshea Gatlin, life is a series of equations. And solving those equations, she said, will lead to success.
“I’m good at math. I’m taking two math courses,” said the 18-year-old high school senior. “Math helps me figure out my problems and solve them in different ways in my everyday life.”
Jermeshea is using those skills as president of 2016-17 Indianola Youth Council, a student leadership organization that prepares members for life after high school. This year marks the fifth class to be part of the Youth Council, created and developed by the Indianola Promise Community (IPC). Since its inception, the council has grown from 15 members in year one to 30 members in the current class.
“It’s an honor for me to be voted president by the other students,” said Jermeshea. “I want to serve my community and help in any way I can. I want to send the message that each student has a duty to change their community for the better. If I show that dedication, then I know they will as well.”
Several Youth Council members have spent more than one year in the program and most have gone on to college after graduation. Since it began, the council has been engaged in scores of service projects, totaling more than 1,200 service hours. The current class recently participated in a Halloween festival at Indianola’s community garden and spoke to younger students about the negative impacts of bullying at another event at First Baptist Church.
“Each year, we learn ways to improve the program to make it more successful for these student leaders,” said Anthony Powell, IPC program manager. “Most go onto higher education and we know that the Youth Council has provided a solid foundation for their future.”
Powell said the success of the Youth Council highlighted a need to involve students at an even earlier age, so IPC has begun a Junior Youth Council aimed at students in grades 7-8.
The council has evolved into an organization that provides an important voice for the discussion of issues that affect young people, exposing them to the nature and scope of city government and requiring a pledge to give the greatest possible service to the community. Council membership is made up of students in 9th through 12th grades. The council brings these young people into the decision-making process of their community as it affects their future.
“As council members, we have a voice and we’re able to be heard by city leaders and parents” said Jermeshea. “Together, we’re stronger than we are as just one.”
To join the council, prospective members go through an application process in August that includes writing essays about themselves and letters of recommendation. Applicants are then interviewed and a final group is chosen to serve.
After high school and her service on the Youth Council, Jermeshea plans to continue solving life’s problems as either a computer science major at Mississippi Valley State University or as a computer information systems specialist in the U.S. Air Force.
Members of the Indianola Youth Council class of 2016-17 are:
Jermeshea Gatlin, president
Jawaski Gardner, vice president
Myiesha Smith, secretary/treasurer
Tatyana Culpepper, parliamentarian