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Police chief addresses first meeting of youth council

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By Amelia Harper
Staff Writer

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A record number of high school students from Nash and Edgecombe counties attended the first Rocky Mount Youth Council meeting of the academic year on Wednesday as Rocky Mount Police Chief James Moore tried to allay concerns about the violence occurring in Charlotte and other parts of the country.

More than 50 area students gathered in the council chambers of the Frederick E. Turnage Municipal Building when Moore addressed issues raised in recent days regarding police interaction, particularly with black males.

“I know that some of you have questions about the police, but we are here to protect you and your liberties,” Moore said. “That means it is my job, not just to make arrests, but to make sure that my officers are treating you right. Liberty means that constitutional liberties also apply to you.”

Moore offered to come back before the youth council to speak about their rights as citizens. He also offered to speak individually with students who have concerns about recent events or how they might expect to be treated by police in Rocky Mount.

After the meeting, Moore told the Telegram he felt prompted to speak to the students because of recent events in Tulsa and Charlotte.

“I had a young man call me with concerns about being an African-American male in our society,” Moore said. “I felt it was important to take this opportunity to speak with the Rocky Mount Area Youth Council and let them know that I am available if they are concerned about these issues.”

The Rocky Mount Area Youth Council is part of the city of Rocky Mount’s Human Relations Department and works throughout the year on various community service projects. It also provides feedback to the Rocky Mount City Council regarding issues affecting youth. In addition, members participate in the Youth Legislative Assembly, the Governor's Page Program and other state-sponsored activities.

Felisa Hunter, Rocky Mount Youth Council adviser and human relations specialist, said Wednesday’s group was the largest group of initial attendees for the council meetings. 

“I think this level of response is because we have been personally reaching out to schools in the area to let them know the benefits of the program,” Hunter said. Benefits include developing soft skills such as communication and work ethic, opportunities for community service, enhancement of resumes and transcripts and opportunities for scholarships and travel, Hunter said.

The message is apparently getting out. Beayonce Pearce, 14, said she attended Wednesday’s meeting primarily because of the opportunities available.

“I think this will help me learn more about myself and will provide a lot of advancement opportunities,” Pearce said.

Nicholas Murray, 15, said he was he was also attending the Rocky Mount Area Youth Council for the first time.

“I am already in Key Club and the Interact Club at the Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School,” Murray said. “I just enjoy helping my community and I think this will give me more opportunities to do that.”

Taylor Booth, 15, participated in the council last year and told the Telegram she has already gained a great deal.

“It has given me the opportunity to travel, meet new people and improve my work ethic,” Booth said. “It also has helped me communicate. I used to be terrified to talk to people and now I am carrying on a conversation with a reporter.”

Hunter said the youth council is still open to new members and is especially looking for more participation from Edgecombe County. For more information on the Rocky Mount Area Youth Council, go to http://www.rockymountnc.gov/departments___services/human_relations/rocky_mount_area_youth_council/ or call 252.972.1184.

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