SENECA, SC (SC)– A new youth council has been formed by the Seneca Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, to tackle tough issues surrounding race and discrimination.
Some members a part of the task force said there have been cultural difference in the community for years. Now, task group members hope by bringing young people to the table, change and unity will happen quickly.
Seneca has faced some big storms in its past. In 2020 alone, a deadly tornado ripped through the city, and the pandemic.
“2020 was a traumatic year for everyone in one degree or another. It was a very difficult time for all of us. Our youth experienced a lot of changes all at once, especially the youth of this community. Not only did we have the major tornado that hit, we were already struggling with COVID,” said Ivy Ellerby, Task Force Member for the Seneca Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. “I think in this community, our youth were really struggling to find their footing because adults were having a difficult time with that,” she said.
However, there’s one cloudy obstacle that has young people and leaders wanting change now.
“So the reason I wanted to get involved is that this is the community that I was raised in. This is where I grew up and I recognize a lot of the problems that I saw 20 plus years ago when I was growing up as a teenager were still here, were still present. And with the changing of the times, I found that it was a perfect opportunity to be a part of the change,” Ellerby said.
“I would say one of the major things with the George Floyd incident, that it brought so much awareness to the communities that, hey there needs to be a bridge that gap between relations,” said Rod Smith, Task Force Member, and Youth Pastor at Foothills Church.
Now students in grades 9th through 12th grades are ready to take action to heal wounds of the past and present.
“We’ve been discussing a lot about the city, and how they are included in every aspect of what the city provides. Whether it be events, festivals, access to recreational parks. So, we’re hearing a lot about when we make decisions on providing things for the community, do we take our youth into consideration,” said Scott Moulder, Seneca City Administrator. “Are they going to feel included. Are they going to feel like they have the same access as an adult would. And then also looking at it from a cultural difference our parks and our playgrounds. Are we maintaining every component of those in the same light,” he said.
The children and teens are working on plans to provide equal opportunities to their peers. The students discuss topics, then they provide recommendations to the main task force group, comprised of adults. The larger task force group then presents it to city leaders, who can approve and implement the changes.
“A lot of the activities that we’re planning for our youth in the community they’re not just flipping ideas, they’ve very calculated in ways that we can show and teach our youth, unity, the sense of community, the sense of citizenship. What is going to be their legacy for their hometown,” Ellerby said.
“To really stir up the people in the community, that our young people are not lost. They’re not just wondering around. They want direction. They want leadership,” Smith said.
The group hopes children and teens will become strong leaders, and feel included. The city also hopes more spaces where equal opportunities are granted, will be birth. The goal is to allow all kids to live and enjoy their communities, without discrimination of economic class, physical abilities, or the color of their skin.
“I want everybody who lives here regardless of where they’re from, how much money they make or what they do. I want them to feel welcomed and have the same access and inclusion to everything that’s offered here in the city,” Moulder said.
“And I think it’s critical to start with the young people. Yesterday is gone, today is here. The only thing we can change is tomorrow, and the best way to do that is to change the mindset of our young people, because they are the future,” Moulder said.
The group meets at least once a month via Zoom. Organizers said they need more teens at the table to bring fresh ideas.
“We’re looking for male and female, Black, White, Hispanic, and we’re looking for Asian now, to make sure that we’re really including all backgrounds, all cultural aspects of it,” Ellerby said.
Students will be involved in the first-ever Juneteenth event on June 19th. The Juneteenth event will be a time to celebrate cultures and learn about different backgrounds. The youth task force is also planning a Youth Day Celebration for later this fall.
To see how you can get involved, contact Seneca City Hall at (864) 885-2700.