The event is coordinated through a partnership among the State YMCA of Georgia, the Cartersville Morning Optimist Club, Bartow County and the city of Cartersville.
“The purpose of Civic Youth Day is to give [students] a civic lesson in how our local government works, and the goal of this program is to try and encourage [students] to become more involved in our government and take an active interest in it ...,” said Billy Neel of the Cartersville Morning Optimist Club. “We all here believe the strength of this community and this country all has to do with how much involvement we have from our people, and that’s why we want to put on this program and that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about it.”
Following the morning shadowing session, a group of five students who shadowed the Cartersville mayor and county commissioner were each asked to speak during the annual Civic Youth Day luncheon on what they felt they needed to do in order to make the country a “better place for all people.” Students spoke on topics ranging from having a stronger religious foundation to being kind to others.
For example, Cartersville High School’s Aaron Moore spoke on citizens showing more respect for the military and military veterans.
“These men and women volunteered to lay their lives on the line no matter what the cost, just to protect us, and now, they have to sit on the sidelines and just watch as they lose their homes, their families and, in the worst cases, they lose their mental health,” Moore said. “As a community, I know we can pull together and give these men and women something they deserve that they haven’t had in a long time, and that’s respect.”
Moore said he plans to serve in the U.S. Army following graduation.
Bartow County does provide services to those who have suffered loss and are currently impoverished, including veterans. Ana Steiger, of Woodland High School, opted to shadow Vonna Artemis, director of Bartow County Indigent Care.
She said she wanted to see how the county helps those who are less fortunate.
“I just really wanted to understand how you help people in the community who don’t have as much as normal, middle-class families do,” Steiger said. “I learned that the people that work with the underprivileged help people who can’t bury [family members] so they don’t feel left out and can still properly bury someone they have lost.”
Steiger said she enjoyed the shadowing experience and appreciated learning the inner workings of serving the less fortunate.
“I learned that truly underprivileged people really only get by with the help of the community and the county and all of these people,” Steiger said.
Other students said they wanted another perspective on how community service entities aid a city when disaster strikes. Jared Meadows of Adairsville High School shadowed Solid Waste Director Rip Conner.
“I’m from Adairsville and after all the tornado problems I wanted to see how much damage was actually done there,” Moore said. “I went with the solid waste director to the landfill where most of the damage from the tornado was stored, and there was over 1,500 tons of wreckage from the tornado, not counting the lumber from the trees that fell over ... I had seen it, but I didn’t actually know how much damage had come from the tornado.”
He said seeing a more comprehensive view of the amount of the Jan. 30 tornado’s destruction made him recognize how service volunteers helped with the immediate needs of Adairsville.
“[Civic Youth Day] definitely had an impact on what I think about community service because natural disasters like that really do a lot of damage, but during the tornado, we had a lot of help getting things out of the road and all that. So it definitely made it seem like [the damage] wasn’t as bad as it was,” Moore said.