By Sonya Campbell
Killeen Daily Herald
For the third consecutive year, Belton students in grades seven through 12 are invited to share their views on community issues with city leaders.
Although the current Youth Advisory Commission board was sworn in during the Sept. 14 council meeting, students can sit in on committee meetings, according to Mayor Pro Tem Marion Grayson, who founded the group.
Grayson, oftentimes referred to by the students as "Momma YAC," said she got the idea for the commission at a National League of Cities conference in Reno, Nev., where other cities showcased their youth advisory commissions.
"I thought, we have great kids like that in Belton," she said.
Now established, the local commission meets once a month - sometimes more if the need arises - and board members adhere to the same rules as other city boards.
"They are actual commission board members," Grayson said, noting that the students' experience posting notices, setting agendas and conducting meetings gives them a clearer understanding of how city government works.
Students also get experience to add to their college application.
The city benefits as well by getting the youth perspective, which can sometimes be surprising, Grayson said.
When the 2009-10 board members were asked by the police chief about their thoughts on renewing the city's curfew, the young board members were all for it.
"They said yes, it still needs to be implemented," she said.
Students also provided input on the city's master strategic plan for its parks.
Grayson is excited about the community's youth having a say on issues that affect their lives.
"I'm glad to see young people seeing you can have a voice in government," Grayson said.
She just wishes she would have had the same opportunity growing up.
As a teen, Grayson formed her own "one-girl committee" and lobbied for a youth canteen, a place where kids could hang out, she said.
While her own effort eventually "died on the vine," Grayson believes the presence of a youth advisory commission would have changed the outcome.
"YAC would have had an impact," she said.
Attempts to contact the YAC chairman for comment were unsuccessful.
About the Belton Youth Advisory Commission
Belton Independent School District students in grades seven through 12 can become committee members. Middle school students can get involved in committees to gain experience. Older students may apply to serve on the nine-member Youth Advisory Commission board.
Board members are selected by Mayor Pro Tem Marion Grayson, the city manager and the city's services coordinator, and are appointed by the mayor. There is no cost to participate and students can earn community service credit.
For more information, go to the city's website at www.ci.belton.tx.us/.