Teens Weigh in on City Affairs

Gulfport Teen Councilors listen to member Sarah Eisenbaum during the council’s meeting Friday, April 8 at the Gulfport Recreation Center.

Gulfport Teen Councilors listen to member Sarah Eisenbaum during the council’s meeting Friday, April 8 at the Gulfport Recreation Center.

When the Gulfport City Council tackles the thorny issue of what to do about the community’s skate park in the coming months, it will have an expert panel on hand to consult: the Gulfport Teen Council.

“I think it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens,” Phoebe Carrazco of Gulfport, a 15-year-old student at Osceola Fundamental High, said Friday, April 8 of the proposal to establish a new skate park on the grounds of the city’s bayside recreation center.

Carrazco is a member of the Teen Council, a standing committee established in 2001 to advise the city council. Its duties include making recommendations regarding equipment and spending in the parks and recreation program, and doing fundraising and community service projects. Members also help with city-sponsored festivals like the recent Fun in the Sun, and with Halloween, Christmas, July 4, Veterans Day and Arbor Day events.

The Teen Council comprises seven regular and three alternate members, all between the ages of 13 and 19, and meets once a month at the Gulfport Recreation Center.

“The Teen Council is a fine organization, and I am glad we have them here,” Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson said Tuesday. “I hope to have them give us an update on recent and upcoming activities at a Gulfport City Council meeting in the near future.”

Members say that being on the Teen Council allows them to play a role in their community’s affairs, as well as learn leadership skills and participate in conferences with their peers around the state.

Teen Council Vice Chair Taryn Spence, 16, of Gulfport, a student at Boca Ciega High School, has been on the council for three and a half years.

“It’s a good opportunity to be a part of my city,” she said.

She recalls working with city council to help pass a controversial city ordinance to control smoking several years ago.

“We got a lot of ridicule and hate mail basically, from people who thought smoking should be allowed,” she said. Although she was initially somewhat frightened by the negative public reaction, she said, “It made it feel like the real thing … not just a bunch of kids in a room talking.”

More recently, she said, the Teen Council helped select the design for the playground next to the Recreation Center.

Carrazco said that although she’s always been involved in activities at the Rec Center, joining the Teen Council in January has given her a much stronger voice.

“It feels like I’m a lot more of an active participant in the city,” she said, “like it’s a lot more official.”

Anyone interested in joining the Teen Council can contact Marivel Gutierrez, the city’s recreation supervisor and Teen Council advisor, at 727-893-1592.


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