The Youth Advisory Commission is looking for what it can do to connect and spread awareness of youth programs in the Killeen area by engaging in a dialog with the youth in the community.

On Saturday from noon to 2 p.m., the Killeen Community Center hosted the first Killeen Citywide Youth Round Table for local youth-oriented organizations to identify ways such organizations can partner to showcase available resources and ways to collaborate on projects that help positively impact local youth.

“A common concern is that there are a lot of organizations that work with the youth,” said Levallois Hamilton, city of Killeen Youth Programs specialist. “And what we don’t want to happen is for the youth to slip through the cracks.”

Also mentioned was Killeen Police Department Crime Statistics. “About 27 percent of the Killeen population is between ages 15 and 29. So when you look at crime in our area, a lot of it is from that age range,” Hamilton said.

More than 30 adults and youth attended the event discussing a variety of topics that the youth have identified as problems in the city.

Topics of discussion included mental health, graffiti, need for activities, alcohol and substance abuse, gangs, sexual misconduct, unemployment, career opportunities, public transportation, meals for children, children with special needs and internet safety.

Attendees heard from a variety of organizations, such as The Village United, Young Entrepreneurs N Action, Killeen Environmental Services, Killeen Police Department Explorers, One Team Fast Pitch, Educated Angles, Hoofbeats for Heroes, Boys and Girls Club of Central Texas, Killeen Independent School District, AYADD, Job Corps, and Parrie Haynes Ranch.

Killeen City Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King and Councilman Gregory Johnson, Bell County Commissioner John Driver, as well as former Killeen Mayor Pro Tem Brockley Moore participated in brainstorming sessions and contributed to the conversation.

One of the biggest highlights was transportation and looking at creating solutions instead of ignoring the problem.

“Public transportation has been an ongoing problem for the south side and now it has grown toward other areas of Killeen” Brockley Moore said. “On the south side there are 13 elementary schools, nine middle schools, and one early college program. We need to look at partnerships and grants so we can come together to get these kids to where they need to be.”

Youth in attendance expressed appreciation for adults and organizations coming together toengaging in the event, highlight the needs and experiences of Killeen youth and their families as they pertain to services and programs.

“It’s always better to talk with and not ‘to’ us,” said Rodolfo Alvarez, vice president for the Youth Advisory Commission, “It’s easy to talk and talk about the youth, but at what point is that you know the youth or are just talking about an abstract concept?”

For members of the City Council like Johnson, the round table gave him insight into some programs he hasn’t heard of and gave him more information to share with the community.

“I need to know what is going on because I want to be the salesperson, to get more people to the table and get them working as a team” Johnson said.

The plan is to create a database at the Killeen Community Center and to meet within the next 90 days.

Youth attendees hope to include more of a social media presence with upcoming events to make the discussion reach those that can’t attend.

“We are building we are not getting there overnight, but we are building.” Hamilton said.

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