DeRIDDER, La. -- City of DeRidder Mayor Misty Clanton is looking for youth in grades 9-12 to serve on the Mayor's Youth Council.
"I am looking for a diverse group of kids from all walks of life," Clanton said.
Clanton has revamped the program to get youth council members more involved on the city level by having them select one representative to serve as an Ex-Officio Member of the DeRidder City Council.
"I want to bring that youth voice to those meetings," Clanton said. "It is very important to me that we hear from everyone -- young and old -- and this is just a way of making that happen."
She stressed the importance of having the youth of DeRidder represented on the City Council.
"It's important we hear from the youth and the issues that affect them and the ways they want to try to mold our future," Clanton said. "At the end of the day, this is about them. What we're working for is building a city for the future, and it's vital that we have their input when we're doing that."
Additional responsibilities for Mayor's Youth Council members consist of planning and being involved in city events, meeting monthly, and working on city projects, as well as serving in community service roles and working closely with the Mayor and other city departments to contribute to the city's quality of life.
"The Mayor's Youth Council has numerous opportunities to develop their personal leadership skills through community service, advocacy, and education efforts, and by representing their peers in the development and adoption of public policy," Clanton said. "The mission of [this council] is to provide the youth of DeRidder the opportunity to provide input and insight on community issues, learn about municipal government and network with youth councils across the state."
To be eligible to participate in the council, applicants must live within DeRidder city limits, and attend DeRidder High School. They may also be private school or homeschooled students, as long as they reside within the geographical boundaries of the City of DeRidder. The deadline to apply is Friday, September 28.
Clanton hopes to have youth from many different backgrounds represented on this council, including military-connected youth living in the city with parents stationed at Fort Polk.
"Military-connected youth bring such a unique perspective to our community because they've been around the world and they've seen other places, so they bring ideas that we may not think of," Clanton said. "They think outside of the box, and they encourage us to think outside the box because they do have a fresh perspective of what other cities and schools do."
Being engaged and listening to the Mayor's Youth Council is paramount to Clanton.
"It's a really unique opportunity to shape our future. Their voice is going be heard more than ever," Clanton said. "This is something that is a huge priority to me, so I want to directly communicate with them."
There are many things she hopes youth council members will get out of participating.
"I hope they are inspired to get involved. So many people think that someone else is going to take care of whatever is going to happen," she said. "They need to know that it is up to them to be that change, to implement that change, and to bring that idea -- not just to sit back and say, 'I wish we had.' I hope they understand that when they get involved and your voice gets heard, that's how things happen."