Columbia youth council: The heirs of the NAACP

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | 10:24 a.m. CST; updated 3:01 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 11, 2009

COLUMBIA — After a few years' hiatus in which membership dwindled, the Columbia NAACP youth council is once again active and growing after regaining its charter a year ago.

Council President Stephany Cox, a senior at Hickman High School, said the council's current mission is to inform youth of their rights and educate those who are afraid to stand up for themselves.

Members of the Columbia youth council board

Myah McCrary

Age: 15

Grade: 9th grade at West Junior High School

Position: Secretary

Interests: Cheerleading, dancing, Tae Kwon Do

Other organizations: MAC Scholars, National Junior Honor Society

Stephany Cox

Age: 18

Grade: Senior at Hickman High School

Position: President

Interests: 2008 Homecoming queen, cheerleading

Other organizations: MAC Scholars

Gary Smith

Age: 18

Grade: Senior at Hickman High School

Position: Second vice president

Interests: Football, track

Other organizations: MAC Scholars

KaDarrius Anderson

Age: 14

Grade: 8th grade at Jefferson Junior High School

Position: Education chair

Interests: Basketball, piano

Julian Cheatum

Age: 13

Grade: 8th grade at Jefferson Junior High School

Position: Assistant treasurer

Interests: Basketball, track

Charity Gant

Age: 12

Grade: 7th grade at Lane Middle School

Position: Assistant secretary

Other organizations: MAC Scholars

Other board members:

Cameron McCrary

School: Moberly Area Community College

Position: First vice president

Samantha Harris

Grade: Senior at Hickman High School

Position: Treasurer

Stephanie Adams

Grade: Senior at Hickman High School

Position: Chaplain

Shantia Solomon

School: Moberly Area Community College

Position: Publicity chair

Hickman senior Gary Smith, second vice president of the youth council, said the response of his peers to the NAACP is positive, and he thinks most are open to hearing more even if they choose not to join.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People requires 25 members for a youth council to obtain a charter. The original charter was lost several years ago when the council's high school seniors graduated and left, leaving few older members ready to assume leadership positions.

Even when there was not enough interest for a youth council, young members were still involved in the adult NAACP, said adviser Pamela Hardin, who is the daughter of state and local chapter President Mary Ratliff.

The youth council, which was re-established in February 2008, acts as an arm of the Columbia NAACP chapter as it rebuilds. Youth members have participated in joint programs and volunteer their time to assist with the adult chapter's events.

During the past election season, for example, the youth council went door to door to promote voter registration. Benjamin Jealous, president of the national NAACP, began his activism in a similar manner, according to the Washington Post.

Recruitment is currently done by word of mouth, but there are plans for a membership drive to reach more Columbia youth.

The council does not have an organized Facebook presence yet, but that could change, Cox said. She said she also hopes to create a Web site specifically for the youth council.

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