Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Hopewell High School students plan future for their city and themselves
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Jan 11, 2013, 12:29

photo by Caitlin Davis Makiah Spratley, Kefira Jones, Katina Moss, Evan Kaufman, Troy Cary and Tyesha Jones standing together to improve Hopewell.

Five students from Hopewell High School’s Future Business Leaders of America, or FBLA, organization, all have one goal in mind: to bring back their city’s downtown area, reviving its history and to breathing life back into the streets of their hometown.

“I am learning a lot about business and the community I really didn’t know about,” junior Makiah Spratley said. “There are things I didn’t really know about Hopewell, even though I’ve been here all my life. I didn’t know people were actually doing something in Hopewell. I thought they were just going to let it dry out.”

Spratley, along with four other FBLA club members and advisor, Katina Moss, were in attendance at the first planning meeting of the year for the Downtown Hopewell Partnership on Thursday night.

After receiving an invitation to the ‘Pizza and Planning’ meeting in November of 2012 the students and Moss committed to being a part of the revitalization effort.

“I’ve always encouraged the students to be active in the community,” Moss said. “So many times students have a lot of opinions on what Hopewell should be like, and so I always encourage them to voice those concerns to the proper people and through the proper channels. I thought this was the perfect opportunity.”

It was an opportunity that Hopewell Downtown Partnership Director, Evan Kaufman, saw when he invited Moss and her students to the meeting in November.

“This is great,” Kaufman said of the students’ involvement. “Students who want to get involved in the community get real world experience where they can give back to their community and learn at the same time.”

The students at the meeting on Thursday, raised their hands frequently and offered input on the next project for the downtown partnership.

The project, still in its early stages of planning, will debut in the coming months and will ask the community to help answer the question, “what makes Hopewell unique?” The partnership is still working to define the terms of the initiative and the kinds of submissions they will seek, but ideas proposed on Thursday ranged in nature from poetry to pictures, videos to pottery.

The FBLA became the steering committee for the project, and will help draft the policies and procedures for the submissions.

The FBLA students could use this project in a an FBLA state competition later in the year.

“At our state competition, there is a competitive event called the community service project, and it basically has to be an incentive that the chapter takes on to make a difference and impact their community in a significant way,” Moss said, explaining the guidelines. “It has to more than just one isolated community service project, or just a series of isolated community service projects. It has to be a concerted effort to make in the community or help the community in some way.”

The students were already brainstorming on what they want to contribute to the project.

“I want to help with advertising,” junior Kefira Jones said. “Because I see a lot of things and I have a lot of visions...I like to show people what I’m capable of. All my ideas just pop up once I start thinking about it.”

The students are interested in bringing back the downtown for their peers and for their futures.

“I would like to help in this organization, because in the younger generation, we should want to help out in the community since we’re the youngest, we’re the ones that can make a change,” junior Troy Cary said. “...We’re going to be the future ones running the businesses in downtown Hopewell.”

While some students are looking at their futures as downtown business owners, others, including junior Kenya Lawrence, are focused on improving the quality of life for students at Hopewell High School.

“We’re also going to continue working with our presentations and involve other organizations in our school to help get more volunteers,” Lawrence said. “I feel like this is a huge project that we’re going to succeed with.

She advocated for providing more recreational activities for young people.

“Every day I come to school, nobody really wants to be in Hopewell. We have nothing to look up to. We have nothing to do. I feel like, as a teenager, we need more stuff to get involved with that would decrease students or teenagers getting in trouble.”

Kaufman has been visiting the school to help the FBLA students build a presentation about what it means to be a designated Main Street Community, and the changes taking place in downtown Hopewell. Kaufman said the presentation is to help the FBLA students recruit their peers to volunteer in the partnership.

“I think it’s important to involve youth in everything, because one, we want to prepare them for the real world,” Kaufman said. “You can’t get everything from the classroom, and we want Hopewell students especially to go out and excel wherever they go, if they go to college. We want them to have an impact here and maybe come back later and do something in the community. And two, it’s important to have their ideas, because there’s a big market for them.”

Junior Tyesha Evans would like to see more events that lure people away from their houses.

“It needs to be a little bit better than it is now,” Evans said. “I want more events that get people involved and not just have them sitting at home.”

Kaufman, Moss and students are looking forward to the continuing partnership between the FBLA and the Downtown Partnership.

“We want the youth to be involved in this project because they are the future business leaders of america, exactly what their name is, and we want them to have them shape the downtown so they’ll want to stick around maybe open a business down here and then also to help them in their own careers of learning their own real world skills,” Kaufman said.

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