Linden Youth Come Together to Focus on Future
Eighteen students from Linden gathered at the Marengo County Business Development Center Friday, March 13, for a “Strengthening Linden’s Future” forum. These students hail from both Linden High School and Marengo Academy.
The forum gave students a chance to talk about different approaches of strengthening their hometown. Robert Turner of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life moderated the forum. Auburn University’s Living Democracy student Amy Hudson and David Mathews Center graduate intern K.C. Vick assisted.
Before the forum began, Robert Turner emphasized the importance of participating in the forum through engaging in discussion and actively listening. Turner said, “The person who listens actually controls the conversationConversations at the forum centered around three different approaches to strengthen community involvement in Linden. The students were asked to consider the benefits and consequences of each approach.
The first approach advocated for investment into the community. Most of the students agreed that Linden’s downtown area needed improvement. Students said they believe a fresh coat of paint on some of the downtown buildings could help revitalize Main Street. Marengo Academy student Mary Jordan Drake suggested an abandoned lot near the downtown area could be repurposed into a public garden. The students proposed that a city beautification committee could possibly make progress in this venture.
The second approach focused on investing in Linden’s youth. Many of the students recall older siblings being involved in a Youth Leadership Council when Linden High School teacher Mitzi Gates served as mayor. Marengo Academy student Hannah Freeman said, as a child, she aspired to be a part of the program, and she was disappointed to discover the program had ended. The students collectively agreed that a program like Youth Leadership Council should be established.
Students also discussed service learning opportunities as one method for equipping Linden’s next generation to become future leaders. Some of the students at the forum had experience in community service such as volunteering at the local nursing home.
Linden High School student Oriana Little proposed the idea that Marengo Academy and Linden High School students should work together on service learning opportunities throughout the school year. Bringing together the two schools was a main theme throughout the forum.
The students said they wanted opportunities to make friendships outside of their own school. Many believed bringing back the Youth Leadership Council could foster a relationship between the two schools. Forum moderator Turner said he was amazed at the students’ willingness to work together for the betterment of their community.
The third approach to strengthen Linden promoted healthy living. The students said that Linden is a very “sports-driven” town. The students are interested in organizing a community softball or basketball tournament, similar to the ones orchestrated by the Youth Leadership Council in previous years.
Students said the forum helped them realize the strengths of their hometown and identify areas that needed improvement. The students believe the local schools, athletic teams, and local businesses are assets to the community that they hoped to help strengthen in the future.