Rockwood gives teens a voice in the community

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By Cindy Simpson

Rockwood youth have a voice, and the city is listening.

High school- and college-age youth are part of the Rockwood Youth Advisory Committee. Rockwood City Council member Krystal Hennager is the sponsor for the highly motivated young people who want more for their community and those their age.

Their first project, a community homecoming bonfire, went well, and now the group is gearing up to help with this weekend’s Halloween party in downtown Rockwood.

Hennager said her main objective for forming the group is to provide an outlet to “advise city of youth concerns with lack of community opportunity.”

She said she believes there can be more for youth to do in the community and opportunities to keep young people in Rockwood to work and raise families.

“If there is a lot of good response to this, the council is going to open their eyes to the need,” Hennager said.

“We  feel our kids are going off to get great educations after high school and not coming back home,” she added. “We want them to come back to Rockwood, and one way to do that is to give them good memories of growing up here.”

A sort of mission statement for the committee is: “A driven generation inspiring commercial, entertainment and industrial growth in the city of Rockwood. In doing so, increasing the potential of our knowledgeable and experienced youth returning back to the city after pursuing the extended education choice, ultimately creating more business, starting families and generating more tax revenue.”

Hennager said one of the things the youth want is more community.

“They want more people on the street doing stuff together. That is actually what they are complaining about,” Hennager said.

While the main focus of the committee is to make Rockwood a place that young people love, the youth may also be able to say they helped shape city policies.

Those include the city’s current rules on junk-yards and free running dogs.

“This is pretty big,” Hennager said.

She believes opening it up to the youth and those they know will get a variety of viewpoints.

“We are going to reach a lot of different people. That is going to get a lot of people involved in lawmaking,” Hennager said to the youth.

The committee focused recent discussion on community activities they hope to have in Rockwood, including a movie night at Rockwood’s Homecoming Park.

Showing movies was one of the most popular ideas discussed by the committee.  

“I think we should decide the movie so we can advertise,” said Parker McCullough.

Some of the youth were interested in helping encourage visitors to the Rockwood skating rink.

Jessica Bear said the skating rink is not as popular as it once was and suggested taking steps to make it a popular hangout again.

Hennager said the city cannot help there because it is a private business. She encouraged the youth to talk to the owners about ways to make it more appealing to older teens.

That’s when Amie Duncan suggested getting together a roller derby team. She was given the responsibility of talking to the rink owners about starting a league.

Another idea popular with many city officials is a shooting range. Hennager said she was surprised by the support.

In exchange for city help with many of the projects, including those aimed specifically at the youth, the committee will be expected to give back to the community in some way, including possibly needed painting projects.

Other places where the youth could barter was at the Rockwood golf course.

Hennager said the golf course is looking for someone who can do web design. In exchange, she suggested the students might be able to use the facility for a fundraiser or get a youth day.

Hennager is looking at some day getting grant money to create a youth center type facility where youth can go for fun, not trouble.

“It wouldn’t be a lame place to go. It would be a place you’d enjoy going to,” Hennager said.

It would be a place with games like air hockey and foosball.

Students involved in the committee are high school students, Jessica Bear, Kiley Gunter, Amie Duncan, Daniel Morgan, Josh Boles, Reanna Henderson, Parker McCullough, Sara Crabtree and Kerri Broglin.

College students are Emily Mead, Shelbey Jolley and Josh Brock.