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In what could be called the River City Youth Summit, members of Danville City Youth Council met with Danville City Council on Wednesday, April 29 at Danville Family YMCA for an informal question and answer session.
While most of the panel discussion revolved around how the five high school students who make up the council could be more actively involved in decision making and project planning, members of the youth council were able to express their greatest concerns during a transformative photography exhibit prior to the discussion.
The photo project, now in its second year, gives the members of Youth Council the opportunity to photograph and visually explain what areas of the city they would like to see changed the most.
The majority of photographs this year encompassed the blighted buildings and unoccupied structures that are scattered throughout the city.
Jada King of Galileo High School showcased a photo of a busted door and explained, “This picture represents the slow deterioration of the City of Danville. The door that is shredded into pieces shows how Danville is being taken apart bit by bit.
“This simple door represents the hardships endured by Danville and it also represents the strength of the city.”
Reginald Jeffries, another Galileo student, photographed an empty building on Floyd Street.
“Here stands another building downtown, sitting there going to waste,” Jeffries wrote. “This building has been empty for as long as I can remember. However, I believe it is a building that has a lot of potential (for) growth.
“This building can be turned into something that can impact and help better the City of Danville. A constant suggestion mentioned from young people across the city is a teen center. Having a teen center can help the betterment of the City by giving the older youth somewhere to hang out and grow into better leaders around the world…”
Classmate Courtney Howerton also mentioned a youth center in her showcase of another vacant structure.
“Taken from the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge is a photo of one of many buildings not in use in Danville, Virginia,” Howerton wrote. “I wanted viewers to see a good building that could be used for many things to improve the city. This building could give the youth things to do like a game room. Also, it could be used for tutoring and many other things.”
Beyond empty buildings and blight, Jeffries also took the opportunity to ask for more opportunity at Galileo with a photo of the high school’s main entrance sign.
“I chose this picture because it is a place that deserves more attention and support,” he wrote. “Galileo Magnet High School is a wonderful school; however, it lacks some high school benefits. As a growing high school in the City of Danville, I believe that this school could have a lot more to offer.
“A main concern of mine is: how come a Blue Ribbon School, a high school, cannot have its own gymnasium? A consistent gym to use for physical education, extracurricular activities, and also sports. Also, I believe that this school deserves more funding to be able to make the high school experience (10) times better from academics to athletics, to overall impact students to help them pursue an outstanding high school experience, helping them prepare for the future. This is a great school with a lot more to offer!”
Members of City Council praised the youth for their efforts and for getting involved.
Councilman John Gilstrap told the youth that pinpointing projects was a great start. He also encouraged the youth council to not only attend council meetings to make their requests, but to also research the costs of their projects.
Councilman Lee Vogler asked the youth to remain involved and to get other students involved as well.
The Danville City Youth Council is managed by City of Danville Parks and Recreation Project. The Transformative Photography project is being developed in cooperation with Danville Parks and Recreation, Virginia Tech and the Dan River Partnership for Healthy Communities.Each year, the Youth Council is comprised of a different set of Galileo and George Washington High School students. This year’s panel includes Reggie Jefferies, Nakia Stephens, Jada King, Dacia Marable and Courtney Howerton of Galileo and Kristen Harper-Edwards, Orlando Waller and Jamya King of George Washington. The students are chosen to sit on council through an application process.