When making decisions for the city of Seymour, Mayor Matt Nicholson relies on a team of leaders, including department heads and other elected officials.
For the past seven months, he has expanded that circle to include a group of teenagers interested in making their community better.
The inaugural Seymour Mayor’s Youth Council is made up o
f 13 high school students who have demonstrated academic and leadership skills and an interest in civic engagement.
Nicholson described the group as dynamic and engaged with great potential to make a meaningful impact on Seymour.
The opportunity to serve on the council is available to students at Seymour High School, Trinity Lutheran High School and Sandy Creek Christian Academy and homeschooled students.
Nicholson is no stranger when it comes to conversing and interacting with youth as he has three teenage daughters, coaches youth softball and ran a bike and skate shop before becoming mayor.
He not only listens to what kids have to say, he values their opinions and insight, taking their thoughts seriously and using their knowledge to make improvements in the city.
Macy Casner, 14, is a freshman at SHS and sees her participation on the council as a way for her generation to make a difference.
“I want our youth’s voices to be heard,” she said.
Through their discussions with city officials as part of the Mayor’s Youth Council, they are being given that opportunity.
On Tuesday, they met with Nicholson and Seymour DARE Officer Jeremy Helmsing at the Seymour Police Department to talk about drug use amongst youth and the need for additional support for students in middle school and high school.
“We opened their eyes to a totally different perspective on the way we see the world because we do see the bad things, and we have the courage to help stop them,” Casner said.
Although this year was disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Casner plans on remaining a part of the group next school year.
“We didn’t get much done this year because of COVID, but we plan on doing more next year,” she said. “I would love for the youth council to be more involved in the community.”
Similar to the city council, the youth council meets twice a month to discuss topics related to members’ interests and concerns. Originally, they were going to be tasked with organizing and carrying out a community project to address an issue of their choice.
That project didn’t happen due to COVID, but the council members were still able to have productive conversations and tour city departments, including the Seymour Water Pollution Control facility and Seymour Police Department.
“This was a great, refreshing group of youth,” Nicholson said. “While COVID didn’t allow for my original vision for this group, I can’t wait to see how it evolves.”
The idea to start a youth council is one he began formulating during his time on the city council. While earning his municipal management certificate from the Municipal Management Institute, Nicholson said a youth council was mentioned as a tool other Hoosier mayors have used with success.
Casner said she learned a lot about how the city operates and the importance of each department.
“It was eye-opening to see how much each division does for all of us,” she said.
Although she’s just a freshman, Casner already is looking to her future and planning for college. Being an active member of the Mayor’s Youth Council is one way to put her on the right path.
“This will be beneficial because I am working on things to put on my college résumé,” she said.
SHS senior Mallory Moore, 18, will be leaving for college in the fall and won’t be returning to the council, but she is thankful for her opportunity to serve on it in its first year.
She encourages other teenagers to get involved because of the positive impact they can have on the community and vice versa.
Applications are now being accepted for the 2021-22 youth council, which will begin meeting in the fall. The deadline to apply is April 30. Online applications are available by visiting the city’s website at seymourin.org.
“I think the youth need a community that they know is on their side,” Moore said. “You get to meet new people and make connections most youth do not get the opportunity to make. It is a great way to make your voice heard of what you want the community of Seymour to become.”
For her, that includes a lively downtown and activities for all ages, she said.
“The biggest reason why I joined the Mayor’s Youth Council was to try and create change and get to see the city from a different viewpoint,” Moore said.
Throughout her experiences with the youth council, she learned people don’t always see eye to eye, even on the small things.
“I also learned that people have to work together in order to come up with great ideas and see them through,” she said. “Seymour is a great town full of many people with many great ideas.”
Being on the council, Moore has been able to gain valuable life skills, including teamwork, communication and social skills, she said.
Even if COVID and busy schedules presented obstacles throughout the year, she said she is thankful for the time she spent learning about Seymour and being an active member of the community.
“We didn’t necessarily get to finish what we had planned, but we had a great group of kids who had amazing ideas, and we set a standard that will aid in the running of the council for following years,” she said. “Every person has a voice, and sometimes, they need to be heard.”
She plans to stay in touch with the group and maybe even get involved in local government somewhere else.
“I want to be able to make a difference to the people who are proud to live in their community and who strive to want to see it at its best,” Moore said.
Although she won’t be in Seymour, she wants to remain connected and informed on what is new and changing in the community.
“Who knows, maybe possibly I’ll become a mayor one day,” she said.
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2020-21 Seymour Mayor’s Youth Council
Bryanna Bailey, Bryce Blevins, Paul Bontrager, Macy Casner, Ellie Cornn, Montana Crossman, Mary Higdon, Lucy Horton, Hannah Kerkhof, Mallory Moore, Cory Robinson, Cheyenne Stoffregen and Kaylee Waskom
How to apply
Online applications for the 2021-22 Mayor’s Youth Council are available on the city’s website at seymourin.org. The deadline to apply is April 30.