For decades the Killeen Youth Advisory Commission has been giving kids a seat at the table. Giving them the opportunity to express their concerns about what challenges they face in the community.
When all the decisions in your life are made for you as a child, it can feel like you don’t have a voice. However, teaching leadership skills and prioritizing volunteering is how the Killeen Youth Advisory Commission empowers kids to find their own voice.
Sit down and be quiet, a phrase often told to children, causing Dae’Tain Nanton to be hesitant when sharing her thoughts and opinions.
“They are an adult so they don’t think that you should have opinions. I really didn’t like speaking or talking to anybody or anyone," said Nanton.
With a push from her grandmother, in 6th grade, Nanton found a space where she could open up and joined the Killeen Youth Advisory Commission. Nanton said the genuine concern from program leaders, has made a profound impact on her life.
Nanton said, "When I have Mr. Hamilton actually asking for my opinion and what I think the community needs that really draws me in.”
The YAC is a place where Nanton said she could voice her concerns discuss the day-to-day issues kids in Killeen face.
“When they go to school, they put a face on when they’re at home they put a face on," said Levallois Hamilton, Facilities Recreation and the Events Manager City of Killeen. "So there was never really a place, from conversations I had with youth, where they felt like they could be completely vulnerable.”
Hamilton has worked with the council since 2016. Seeing leaders like Nanton blossom is something Hamilton said is the whole reason for the program.
“She started speaking up at the meetings giving feedback and everybody would be like wow she’s talking to you now she actually has a voice,” Hamilton said.
Nanton is now a leader among her peers and a role model.
“Being a mentor and being someone that kids can look up to his life is very important to me because I want to leave something when I leave YAC," said Nanton.
The program is rooted in leadership, volunteerism, and service designed to nurture leaders like Nanton and help them find their voice.
“It’s just a testament to the productivity of the program and how it’s truly impacting people," said Hamilton. "We are always just simply making sure kids have a voice making sure they have a seat at the table that they have a say in decisions in that are being made that affect them.”
Nanton said, “You can't speak about the community and how it is without representation. Representation matters, no matter if you are black, white your gender or your race, it does not matter we want you to be heard. We are here for you."
The YAC is a selective group of Killeen students from 4th to 12th grade who are appointed by the city council. For more information about the Youth Commission, you can head over to the City of Killeen's website.