The youths volunteer for organizations ranging from nursing homes to the Special Olympics.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two years ago, Jessica Silvestri turned a nice thought into action. Today, her efforts help lots of domestic violence victims.
The Struthers teen spearheaded a campaign to gather old cellular phones that are reprogrammed to dial 911 and donated to domestic violence victims. Help for them now is just a button click away.
It's initiative like that which the city will honor Friday with its first National Youth Service Day celebration.
Jessica and 50 other teens from across Mahoning County will be recognized for the their volunteer efforts and the impact they've made. The youths volunteer for organizations ranging from churches and nursing homes to food banks and the Special Olympics.
The city will honor them at a banquet Friday evening at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church with plaques.
Dorothy Jackson, Akron's deputy mayor, will be the speaker on the topic of "building the ladder by which we rise."
Assets, not problems
The event is a way to recognize youth, who too often are portrayed as merely problems to a community -- and not assets, said Tamica Green, the city's Federal Plaza director.
The city is among many institutions that have been lax in recognizing youth, said Green, who is organizing the celebration. City officials want to show that they do care, she said.
"We thought this would be a great way to spotlight young people," she said. "We were delighted and impressed to see so many young people doing such outstanding work in the community."
The Youth Service Day program came to Youngstown's attention from Akron, which has honored students there for 13 years. The U.S. Conference of Mayors started the event 14 years ago.
Beyond city's borders
The city modeled its youth service day on Akron's celebration, Green said, but expanded the honors beyond city borders.
Hope is that the recognition will spur other youth to volunteer, Green said.
Honorees must fit certain criteria. They must be between 12 and 18 years old, nominated by an organization that uses volunteers and the youth's work must have made an impact in the community.
The city got 68 nominations and 51 teens met the criteria, Green said.