North Providence Youth Commission making bigger impact than ever

North Providence Youth Commission making bigger impact than ever

Members of the North Providence Youth Commission accepted a $2,000 legislative grant check from state Rep. William O'Brien (holding check) last week. Next to O'Brien are Mayor Charles Lombardi and Jeannie Vickers, head of the Youth Commission and the town's acting recreation director. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE - The North Providence Youth Commission is drawing more young people than ever to participate in its mission of public service, a positive sign for the town's future, say those behind it.

Attendance for the Youth Commission typically grows over the course of a year, said Jeannie Vickers, but this year there are more than 50 young people signed up at the start of the year, a record number.

Noah Bond, 16, who is taking over leadership duties as Danielle Carey departs after graduating from North Providence High School, said the Youth Commission has become "a family" for those who participate in it. Something about helping out their town draws out the best in teenagers, said Bond.

Bond said the Youth Commission is all about caring for the community in new and creative ways. Now in its fifth year, members are participating in more community projects than ever before, he said, and always looking to do more.

Being a member of the commission has meant a lot more to Carey than just a way to bond with other young people and help her community. Representatives from American University were so impressed with her participation in the Youth Commission that they said it was the overwhelming factor in giving her a $53,000-a-year scholarship.

With the exception of a youth commission in Cumberland, there are few commissions like this one anywhere, said Vickers. She said she has never seen a group of young people more committed to helping, pouring many thousands of hours into their work.

Students will do whatever it takes to get to weekly meetings and community events, even if they have to walk or ride a bike through rain or snow, said Bond.

North Providence High School student Nick Duhamel, who recently moved to the town, said he was looking for ways to get involved in his community when Carey told him about the Youth Commission. Duhamel said being part of this "amazing group" for the past few months has been way better than he imagined. He has had a "fantastic experience" meeting some "amazing friends," he said.

Duhamel said he volunteered with the volunteer firefighter parade on June 15, even getting a chance to shut down a street for all fire trucks to pass.

"It was awesome to have that responsibility for a great cause," he said.

Carey said she recruits other students by telling them how the Youth Commission "inspired me to be the person I am, the leader I am." Joining up is about being a pivotal part of the local community even at a young age, she said.

Young people from all walks of life and schools participate in everything from the North Providence Farmers Market to the July 3 fireworks, from Pumpkins in the Park to National Night Out, from Feather Feeds a Family to Christmas present drives for needy children.

Mayor Charles Lombardi said that without the help of the Youth Commission, many events in town would be difficult or impossible to pull off.

Vickers said she's always most proud of the diversity represented on the Youth Commission, with students from all different nationalities and backgrounds coming together for one cause.

Bond said he knew just how much a positive impact the Youth Commission makes when members came around his brother Jordan, who has disabilities, to help him while he was in the hospital. They continued to embrace his brother, inducting him into the commission and letting him be a key part of it, said Bond.

This is a group that's led by students, said Bond, giving young people "a voice" in the immediate world around them. In addition to developing character and a caring attitude toward their community, students learn how to be better public speakers and how to better work with each other, he said.

John Soares, 22, an adult volunteer with the Youth Commission, said he and other leaders are always encouraging young people to look for new ways to branch out in the community. No one laughs at new ideas, he said, instead seeking out ways to get them done.

Vickers said that the Youth Commission is always looking for new members whether they attend public, private, or homeschool. Everyone between the ages of 13 and 18 is welcome, she said.

The Youth Commission is entirely self-sustaining and relies on donations from the community. Anyone who wishes to donate to the cause can call Vickers 401-349-5625.