Fort Hood youth were asked to speak out about how the installation could better meet their needs at this year’s Teen Army Family Action Plan Conference last week.
More than 50 Fort Hood teens between the ages of 13 to 18 participated in this year’s conference, which was organized by Fort Hood’s Army Community Service and Soldier and Family Readiness Branch.
As part of the conference, teens were asked to identify needs and challenges of youth on post, then work together to develop recommendations to address them.
“(AFAP) is put in place to improve life for everyone in the Army,” Diane Mansfield-Williams, the program’s coordinator, told conference attendees. “That incudes teens.”
On Thursday, the participating teens presented eight recommendations to members of Fort Hood’s leadership, including Col. Matt Elledge, the garrison commander. Some of the recommendations included creating a financial aid counseling center for military students looking to attend college, making Fort Hood’s “Teen Taxi” service available during the summer, organizing a newcomers orientation for new teens on post and asking for more name-brand clothing in on-post stores.
“When adults have ideas to change things and they speak out, they are almost always going to be heard,” said Jamila Cutts, a 17-year-old high school senior. “With teens, that might not always happen, so this is our chance to tell everyone what we think.”
As the conference ended, the participating teens voted for their top recommendations. According to the vote, the most important recommendation was the call for a teen-oriented club on post.
The second most important recommendation called for the creation of a career education and counseling center.
Lorenzo Smith, whose group advocated for the idea of the career center, said such a place would allow military connected teens — many of whom’s parents went straight into the military — to explore a wider array of career choices.
“They may not get a lot of exposure with other careers,” said Smith. “(At the center) they can get that information they need.”
Elledge said the group addressed many good points in the presentations, and noted that he was a military child himself in a time when input from teens was not usually considered.
“These things just didn’t happen when I was growing up,” Elledge said. “Please realize that this is a blessing.”
Elledge also indicated that recent budget cuts might make it difficult to allocate funds or manpower for some of the group’s recommendations.
“In a time of war we expand, and in times of peace we contract,” Elledge said.
Elledge said Fort Hood would also look to the teens themselves to help address the challenges presented at Thursday’s conference. “We need you teens to step up to the plate,” he said.