The LaFayette High School Junior Council celebrated its first accomplishment with renovations to the LaFayette Recreation Center.
In October 2019, the LHS Junior Council was formed as students were chosen by their teachers to be involved with the City Council to engage in their community to make a difference.
The first item the Junior Council wanted to tackle: improvements to the Recreation Center.
City Manager David Hamilton said the Junior Council members began to meet and discuss topics that were important to them, what they were interested in seeing accomplished in the city and what they wanted to see more of as it pertained to their concerns and even some of their complaints.
“It really started to gain some strong momentum prior to COVID-19,” Hamilton said. “It was one of the biggest disappointments of COVID was when schools were shut down and it put a big damper on the progress we were making with the Junior Council. We had to cancel a couple of events. We were slowly able to get it started again this fall.”
Hamilton said although the current COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the continued progressive momentum of the Junior Council, meetings continued to allow for the students to achieve their first goal of renovating the Recreation Center with new furniture, new flooring, a revised lobby and fresh coats of paint throughout the center, giving modern, renewed life to one of the city’s most important assets for young people.
“I’m always excited when our kids get involved in community projects,” Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines said, “because that’s what LaFayette High School is trying to teach, is that if you’re a citizen living here, you want to value what is here.
“So, to see our kids giving back and doing something that is going to have an impact on kids years down the path is always a good thing,” Raines said. “I always appreciate our teachers who take the time to find these kinds of projects and let our kids turn it into their own and make it better than we’ve even thought. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
LaFayette High School Principal Maggie Stultz said the city of LaFayette reached out to LHS Community Crew Leader Sarah Jenkins and the project was organized with Hamilton and City Council member Chris Davis to begin the LHS Junior Council.
“It’s been exciting,” Stultz said, “and the kids have been involved and been a part of helping the city make decisions that best benefit students of their own age.”
In February 2019, LHS helped co-sponsor a Valentine’s Love Dance at the Recreation Center, where the money garnered was matched with the city of LaFayette and the students were able to afford picking out all the new decorations, furniture and flooring to spruce up the center.
“We are just glad to be a part of the continued collaboration with the city,” Stultz said.
“This is a great organization,” Mayor Andy Arnold said. “This is a great thing for the city of LaFayette. It’s good for them to come and give us advice on stuff that we really don’t know as much about it as they do. So this was a good place to start, but we’re looking for more and more advice from them.”
“The recreation center was mainly chosen by the Junior Council because it’s a hangout place for anyone at any age no matter how old you are,” said LHS Junior Council member Cayenne Russ, a senior. “You can still come here and have a good time. So it’s not really centered toward one person. It’s centered to the whole community. So that was just a really good place to start I feel like.”