03/28/07 — Youth Council members put serving their community first

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Youth Council members put serving their community first

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 28, 2007 1:45 PM

When Larry Sampson rides through the neighborhoods that surround downtown Goldsboro, he does not see the blight.

In his mind, future leaders will rebuild the city's broken homes, feed its hungry and house its homeless.

"In my dream, Goldsboro is this grand place," the 16-year-old said. "It's clean and all the historic houses are fully restored. And business is running smoothly."

The Eastern Wayne High School junior said he would rather focus on all his hometown could be -- not what it currently is -- and believes that through community service, he and other members of the Mayor's Youth Council are already effecting change.

Early on a Saturday morning, most of Larry's classmates are still in bed.

But when his alarm sounds, he isn't thinking about lost sleep or the television shows he might miss today.

Since he joined the council, preparing a meal for the hungry has taken priority over those activities.

"Whenever I wake up in the morning, I'll say, 'Man, it's Saturday.' I might feel cranky and stuff at first," Larry said. "But later on, in my mind, I would say, 'God has blessed me with the ability to help these people.' We're one step closer with every sandwich I make."

Spring Creek High School senior Thomas Swedenburg remembers those mornings.

"They are really encouraging," the 18-year-old said. "It's really good to know that you're helping to feed that person for that day."

But being a member of the youth council is about more than making a few sandwiches.

April Pfeiffer, a 16-year-old Rosewood High School junior, looks forward to trips to the Brian Center for bingo games with the elderly, wrapping Christmas gifts at Berkeley Mall and serving food at local soup kitchens.

"The people we meet, some of them really get to us," she said. "It makes me feel like I can actually help someone."

Marcia McCoy remembers one man in particular.

"There was this one guy (at the soup kitchen), he just kept talking to us as if we were his kids," the 17-year-old said. "He said, 'You are somebody special.' I will never forget it ... It makes me feel like I've done something. I've left my mark on Goldsboro."

Being a member of the council has given her more opportunities to give back to the community she loves, Marcia said.

So as graduation approaches, the Spring Creek student body president wants to inspire other young people to make a similar commitment.

"I would recommend it all the way," Marcia said. "I'm the type of person, if I know about something that's good, I want to share it with people."

Eastern Wayne junior Brandon Cutler also said he would encourage his peers to join the council.

After all, everybody needs a helping hand at some point in their lives, he said -- and anyone can end up on the streets.

"I'm kind of worried about my own future," Brandon said. "Sometimes, when we're out there, I see myself as one of the homeless -- hoping I won't ever be a part of that world. But anything can happen."

So along with his fellow council members, the young man is out to show the community that a small group of service-oriented teens can improve the quality of life for all mankind.

And as Thomas and Marcia prepare for their upcoming graduations and college freshman years, that, they say, is what they will take with them from Goldsboro -- the drive to be a better citizen than they were the day before.

"I try to look at the long term more," Thomas said. "You can help one person, one time in your life, and that's helpful ... but the more you do each day, now, instead of helping just one person, you can help people all across the state."