For the first time in Lewisville history, high school students have sworn into office and formed the Youth Action Council.
The teens were chosen to serve as representatives of the youth in the city for a school year. The 25 members will advise City Council on youth-related issues, form and assess programs and events targeted at a younger audience, and complete service projects.
“I do see a gap between the youth and the older generations, and I feel like this program will help bridge that gap,” said YAC member Kaylynn Simplis.
Simplis is a senior at Lewisville High and serves as the student body president and a National Honor Society member. Many members of the YAC practice other leadership roles too, working in honor societies, student council, teen court and other organizations.
“I just want to learn how our community works and what makes our community the community that it is, because I feel like we have a very strong community, tight knit,” Simplis said.
The project became Assistant City Manager Melinda Galler’s to research to fruition. Galler said she’s excited by how diverse the group is, allowing the city staff to reach different communities in a new way.
For example, there are some Chin students in the group, Galler said, one of whom was interested in serving as an ambassador for his community, to help get his community engaged as well serve its needs.
“It represents kind of what Lewisville represents,” Galler said. “Hopefully we can see the diversity of the groups that serve on our boards, see that increase through these students.”
Galler said City Council members want the students’ input on issues and to hear from their perspectives.
“They have a perspective we don’t always get from staff, from citizens we interact with every day,” Galler said. “I’d like to see some of them maybe work in government.”
Galler said the program initiatives aren’t determined yet because the students will decide what to work on in coming meetings, and there’s a lot of potential.
“I’m glad we haven’t really defined the program,” she said. “We’ll get a better program by getting their input.”
YAC member Gabi Lloyd, vice president of the senior class and student council at LHS, said service is important.
“I’m really excited to see what input we can have that influences the decisions that our council makes,” she said. “I’m excited to see what projects we’ll be involved in and ways that we can help out our community.”
Member David Hernandez found out about the youth program through student activities director at LHS Allison Stamey. A senior class officer, a member of the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and the president of LHS’ Republican Club, Hernandez said one initiative he’d like to look into is a local garden.
“My biggest hope is to learn more about local government and see how I can help my local community,” he said.
Stamey said Galler came to her with the idea to have students come and serve. From there, Stamey alerted student council members and officers of the opportunity.
“Number one, they can learn about the government. Number two, they can have some input into what they see as teenagers,” Stamey said. “It’s always a good idea to get teen input and input from teens all the way up to our senior citizens.”
The council consists of students from Hebron, Harmon and Lewisville high schools. There is also a student who is homeschooled and a student who recently transferred to a private school.
Mayor Rudy Durham addressed the teen council Monday at the city council meeting.
“I’m expecting great things from this group, and I’m sure you’ll find a way to exceed my expectations,” he said. “Congratulations on being a part of something new and exciting. Thank you for your service to your peers and your community.”
Youth Action Council members
Steve Southwell reported for this story.