January 15, 2014 - By Leslie Batoha
Review Special Writer
Eleven Orion Township teens will now have the chance to voice their political opinion thanks to Township Supervisor Chris Barnett's new Youth Council.
Members of the Orion Trustee Board, as well as the students on the council, were ecstatic about the future of the program.
"When I found out [that I was accepted], I was really excited. I'm really interested in and opinionated about government, and this was an opportunity for me to sort of get an inside scoop and first-hand experience at how our local government actually works," student Brianne Lambrecht said.
The students had to submit applications to the Orion Trustee board, and were nominated at the December 16 meeting. Members of the board showed interest in the program, as it showed promise for the future of Orion.
"I'm excited about this because our youth is our future in this township," Trustee Mike Flood said during the December 16 board meeting. "Every one of us sitting up here [on the trustee board] started out as a youth and wanted to serve our community. This is a great way to start it in our schools."
The kids—all Orion Township residents and Lake Orion high school students—will be a part of the board meetings during their term, and will be involved with community decisions as well as community-oriented projects.
Barnett got the idea while working on his campaign in 2012, and quickly realized that many communities have a government program for their youth. Once Barnett researched the idea fully, he went to Teacher Kevin Kopec's Youth in Government meetings to find teens interested in government and politics.
One of the members, Collin Brooks, decided to apply for the job on the council simply because Barnett "came to the Youth in Government meeting and it sounded interesting."
"Getting the next generation involved would be a big thing for the community. We have a lot of growth happening right now in Orion, and I'd love to see the youth, especially the members of the Youth Council, get involved," Barnett said.
Although the group may not have started as early as they would've liked, many of the students still had big plans for their term on the Youth Council. Rachel Cullon, a junior at the high school, applied for the position because she "loves to volunteer and wanted to help beyond school grounds." Like other members of the program, Cullon had many projects that she wanted to work on through the council.
"As a teen, I wish there were more things to do locally on a daily basis. Hopefully we can address some new areas for young people to hang out in the community that are safe and fun," Cullon said.
At their first meeting this month, Barnett plans to throw around ideas to get the kids interested and motivated in the work to come. He wants their term to be "meaningful" and enjoyable.
"I'm envisioning giving the kids events in the community to work on and having them report back to the board about it—their findings, ideas, recommendations, and all. I want the kids to really take control of what they're doing and love it," Barnett said.
Barnett believes that the Youth Council will have a positive impact on the tightly-knit community of Orion Township and will be very effective in bringing the town closer together.
"The one thing I love the most [about Lake Orion] is that when something happens, whether it be a suicide or a fundraiser, the community rallies together. It's a really unique thing about it, and I think that the Youth Council will be a great way to engage the kids in it."