Selma youth speak up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

Ten-year-old Jonathan Watson broke the ice at Selma’s first ever youth town hall meeting Tuesday at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center.

The Byrd Elementary fifth grader confidently strolled up to the mic stand, looked Mayor James Perkins Jr. in the eye and said, “Could we get a movie theater, could we get an arcade and more sit down restaurants?”

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The room erupted with applause from the young and young at heart.

Designed to give youth a platform to voice their concerns and suggestions for the city, Tuesday’s town hall meeting accommodated grades five through eight.

Grades nine through 12 will meet April 10 and young adults age 19 to 25 will meet April 17.

Perkins said questions and concerns from each meeting will be discussed further in a public forum, which is not yet scheduled.

“The idea is not to answer their concerns, the idea is to listen to their concerns,” Perkins said of the meetings.

With an encouraging nudge from the Selma-Dallas County Youth Ambassadors, children expressed their desires for the city – new school buildings, more tutoring programs, more youth groups, more youth jobs, new stores in Selma Mall, a new skating rink and bowling alley, a zoo, a book publishing company, a bookstore, an arena for concerts, an amusement park and a water theme park.

Shalonzia Tubbs, 7, a second grader at Edgewood Elementary, suggested the city build a children’s theater so kids “can model, sing and act.” Another young female suggested implementing a transportation system that only shuttles kids from school to extracurricular activities around the city.

Diamond Reeves, 6, a kindergartner at Clark Elementary, had only one request – a museum.

“What kind of museum would you like to have?” Perkins asked.

“One with dinosaurs,” Reeves replied.

But of all these suggestions, Selma’s very own movie theater was the ultimate wish. Perkins said there is a “universal consensus” that Selma needs a movie theater, citing the city has performed a feasibility study. As part of the city’s downtown revitalization project, Perkins would like to build a movie theater on the city’s riverfront. Perkins said the next step would be “finding a group of investors willing to make an investment in the community.” The city is now talking to three investment groups regarding the project, Perkins said.

Next to movie theaters, nationally franchised restaurants were also top priority among the youth audience.

Perkins announced Zaxby’s, a casual restaurant chain that’s famous for its buffalo wings and chicken fingers, “is actually coming to Selma.”

“They’re working

on construction plans now,” Perkins said.

Perkins added that Selma’s existing restaurants are investing in the community and upgrading their facilities, using Lannie’s BBQ No. 2, Golden Ranch BBQ and Graystone Restaurant as examples.

Before departing, Perkins expressed his gratitude to the city’s youth, saying “their desire for civic participation means something.”

“We’re gonna talk about the concerns you’ve expressed and we’re gonna come back with answers for you,” he said.

Parents were also impressed with the childrens’ take-charge attitude. Selma resident Rajeeyah Holmes said the meeting was not only an eye opener for city officials, but parents too.

“I think it went really well and I think the children really got a chance to let us know what they’re thinking,” she said.

Selma resident Callie Braxter credits city officials for having the town hall meetings, saying she was surprised at how bold the children were.

“They know exactly what they want,” Braxter said. “I’m just proud of our lambs because they’re the future.”