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Collinsville Students Discuss Community's Future

Two dozen students focused on the future of Collinsville at a forum led by the David Mathews Center for Civic Life on May 19 in teacher Donna Jones’ classroom at Collinsville High School.

At the forum, hosted by the Collinsville Public Library, teens discussed ways to make a difference by investing in the community by creating opportunities for youth engagement.

Shaye McCauley, living and working in Collinsville this summer as part of the Auburn University Living Democracy program, engaged in discussion with the students about projects of interest. She plans to help students build on ideas generated at the forum.

Cristen Foster represented the Mathews Center, headquartered in Montevallo. To start the afternoon session, Foster guided the class through three approaches to changing life in Collinsville, emphasizing what the students wanted to improve in their town.

When asked what they would like to see in their town, suggestions ranged from more restaurants to reopening the Cricket Theatre to creating a band at school.

Sam Delacruz said, “Having a band would be great for school spirit and to boost morale during football and basketball games!”

The students next focused on the assets in Collinsville, which included the library, family-owned restaurants, workout facility, small businesses, town hall and the historic Cricket Theatre.

Participants discussed ways these assets could be enhanced to be youth-friendly. For example, revitalizing the Cricket Theatre could provide space for open mic nights and music and art events.

Students also suggested improving the library’s outreach program to include a larger book selection and book clubs for all ages.

The conversation shifted to life and job skills programs available for teens. Students said that part-time jobs were mostly only available in neighboring towns. Students said there were eager for more job-shadowing opportunities and career assessments as well as information about life skills such as applying for scholarships and paying bills.  

The conversation turned to specific projects that could be implemented to improve Collinsville.  Students said they would like to expand parks and create a soccer field for year-long use.

Other ideas on the table included promoting community health by encouraging walking and biking to school. More specifically, they suggested providing a bike rack at the school and starting a “walk to school day.”

The forum was just the beginning as the group decided to take action by planning a community field day and picnic so families can come together in a local park for a day of food, games and conversations.

McCauley said she hopes to help students build on their ideas. Currently, she is organizing book clubs through the library and has created a Facebook page and Twitter account for the Collinsville Public Library where students can check for updates and share ideas to help enhance the community.

Collinsville High junior DeAnna Morales said she appreciated the forum because it represented a “chance to really make a difference.”  She added, “I like that we have a chance to change the way all the kids interact with each other.”

Morales’ classmate, Lindsay Sanchez, said, “It’s wonderful to know that the community cares about all of us and wants to create some activities that will keep us interested. It’s also cool to have projects to focus on this summer.”

Tags: Collinsville

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