The Oviedo Youth Advisory Council is giving young men and women in our community an important voice and a priceless opportunity for service.
When Oviedo-Winter Springs Life last caught up with 17-year-old Michael McNamara of Oviedo, he was coming off a week-long Boys State program that saw him serving as Senate President at a mock legislative session in Tallahassee.
Back in Oviedo, the recent Oviedo High School graduate just finished presiding over another group of civically-minded young men and women who make up the Oviedo Youth Advisory Council. The newly formed organization officially launched in February following the approval and blessing of the Oviedo City Council.
“We stood together in front of City Council last summer and told them our mission,” says Michael, who led the new group through its first year with the assistance of 2019 Hagerty High School graduate Christian Conrad.
City staff worked with the Youth Advisory Council to help get it off the ground.
“It is an exceptional accomplishment to see the young adults of our community from Oviedo and Hagerty High come together with such passion to learn how our community and government works so they can participate in the betterment of our community overall,” says Mayor Dominic Persampiere of Oviedo. “For a first-year organization, they have done a great job, and with the foundation that’s been created, it will be exciting to see where it leads over the years.”
Michael says the Youth Advisory Council’s first initiative was to raise money for the upcoming Boys & Girls Clubs branch in Oviedo by organizing a live variety show at Hagerty High, dubbed Oviedo’s Got Talent.
Emceed by Michael, the event featured students representing Jackson Heights Middle, Lawton Chiles Elementary, Hagerty High, and Oviedo High schools. Nineteen acts took the stage – from musicians and singers to dancers and puppeteers. In the end, the show was a resounding success, raising nearly $1,000. Christian was voted the top performer of the evening, playing an original song written for the piano.
Alicia Hodge, senior development officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, attended the fundraiser and was impressed at the level of professionalism the Youth Advisory Council portrayed in putting together the event.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Alicia says. “I was very surprised and grateful for how much they raised.”
The talent-show fundraiser in May was just the beginning of the Youth Advisory Council’s drive to serve the community.
“Community is important in a growing city,” Michael believes. “We want to be sure that the community is growing with the city.”
Michael explains that the volunteer council was formed on the premises of leadership, service, and representation to and for the community.
“We wanted to create a group of leaders who are leaders in their individual activities and can step up to make a difference,” he says. “It should be a voice for students in city government.”
The Youth Advisory Council’s inaugural year involved students from Oviedo High and Hagerty High schools, who filled all administrative roles, including communications director, media director, and activities director.
Christian, who is now attending West Point, served as Michael’s 2018-2019 vice president. Friends since middle school, the two cofounded the Youth Advisory Council with the knowledge that its full impact would not be felt until long after their own service was done.
“There are such great students who are involved now,” says Christian.
He notes that only four members of the inaugural council graduated high school this year, leaving a number of sophomores and juniors in the wings.
“We have done our best to help see that the mission will continue,” Christian adds. “Our goal was to get the youth more involved with what is going on, and I am really happy with the way things have progressed.”
Moving forward, the 2019-2020 Youth Advisory Council plans to continue to raise funds for the Boys & Girls Clubs branch and will launch a Purple Heart Project in conjunction with the Oviedo American Legion Post. That effort will seek out veterans who want their voices heard or are looking for services. The Youth Advisory Council may also dabble in environmental awareness.
For Michael, who will be heading to Rollins College this fall, the ultimate objective is to make Oviedo an even more dynamic place to call home.
“The goal is reaching out to the community and leaving Oviedo a better place than we found it,” he says.
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