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Getting teens involved

May 1, 2011

LINCOLN — It's both amusing and inspiring, how Lincoln High junior Josh Soucy came up with the notion of creating a “Teen Advocacy Group,” an organization that would give him and his peers more input and knowledge about happenings in town government.
“I was at home one day after school, this was in mid-January, and I was fuming about a project I wanted to do, but I knew it would never be approved by the Town Council,” Soucy, 17, stated while perusing “T.A.G.” information on his iPad inside a school conference room Friday. “I wanted to incorporate a computer network in town so residents could access public data more easily.
“I ditched it because I knew it would never fly,” he added. “That same day, I thought of a way for all teens to get their ideas, their voices, heard at Town Council meetings. I totally switched my train of thought. I figured this would be worthy because the town, I don't believe, is as involved as it should be with its own inner workings, or civics.
“I was thinking we could get more teens involved with government, and bring the next generation closer to being more active and educated as to town governmental processes … When I get an idea, it just pops into my head and rapidly builds until it's fully formed. They come to me like a bulldozer.”
Not so surprisingly, Soucy's concept has taken hold. In fact, the Town Council voted unanimously at its April 19th meeting to issue him a letter of endorsement, one that would encourage teens to become more involved in Lincoln politics, issues and events.
In addition, District 5 Council member Kenneth Pichette introduced a resolution at its Feb. 16 session. In it, he suggested the Ordinance Committee, working with Soucy, “explore and discuss the possibility of creating such a group by researching similar groups currently existing in similar communities.”
The council voted to refer the resolution back to the Ordinance Committee on April 19.
Soucy also has decided to use the “T.A.G.” concept as his “exhibition” topic, which is necessary to meet his graduation criteria.
“I knew I had my exhibition coming up, so I thought this would be a perfect subject,” he explained. “In exhibition, you must have a problem and a solution, using research to back up the solution. I have to present my exhibition on, I think, June 16 before a panel of judges from the community.
“I've talked to some kids in school, and they like the idea, but a lot of them have other things that take up their time, like sports, the variety show, student council and executive boards,” he continued. “I've been a little disappointed that I don't have more people, but I do have about eight or nine schoolmates who are willing to contribute their time to T.A.G.”
He also explained he must enlist a teacher to act as a guide, help it become a school club, but “I've had no luck so far.
“Still, I'm undaunted,” he grinned. “This is something I believe will help future generations. It will allow them to take more action in their community, or learn how to go about it. Right now, it's sort of at a standstill because I have to wait on the council's letter of endorsement. Hopefully, after that, I'll get more people involved because it will be on paper.”
Back in early February, he began meeting with former Town Council President Ronald McKenna of Manville, and – together – they discussed how he could bring the notion to the council.
“He used his influence to put me on a work session, that was on Feb. 16, and I presented T.A.G.,” he said. “I told them it would be a committee that would allow teens to bring their views and ideas about any issue to the council.
“As a child, you're a dreamer; you want to be an astronaut or a firefighter or a princess,” he added. “But, as an adult, you want to be, have to be, more rational. The way I look at it, as a teen-ager, you're able to moderate your dreams, and you're able to put them into rational thought processes.
“With this group, teens would be able to think of good solutions to difficult problems, and they'd be able to plan out those ideas step by step and present them to those who do make those decisions. Mr. McKenna told me he thought it was a very good idea, and that he liked it. He said, 'Let me see how I can help you, and he did.'”
Soucy mentioned he'd like T.A.G. to have input on such things as new Parks & Recreation Department
programs; fund-raising ideas for the Family Literacy Center; community events such as an all-Lincoln picnic at Lincoln Woods State Park; and others.
“(A picnic) would bring all of the neighborhoods together,” he offered. “I feel like while everyone lives so closely together, they're still miles apart socially. Again, T.A.G. would bring the teens' ideas to the Town Council, and we'd sit down and discuss issues that teen-agers don't get a chance to talk about on that level.”
He admitted, for now, “it's just a high school thing. It would be very difficult to bridge the organization over to the middle school, but who knows? Maybe those younger people would form their own T.A.G. program.”
Soucy indicated that, someday, he'd like to study either software development or – as he said – “spiritual healing.” He's very involved with “Reiki,” or the flow of spiritual energy that relaxes and heals the body.
“I'm beyond the rank of grandmaster; I'm a gold Reiki III,” he said. “You couldn't call me an expert, that's not how the ranks work, but you could me highly attuned to the universal chi. I'm only a junior, so I've got plenty of time to think about college.
“I'm interested in going to either New England Tech or Brown (University),” he continued. “My mom's boyfriend went to New England Tech, and he told me loved it. He's very smart, and, in fact, works as a support technician for a server company in Cranston.”
When asked if he someday would like to be a town councilor, this enterprising gentleman offered this: “Considering it's not a full-time job, I could still work in Reiki or computers and do that as well. I'm highly considering it.
“I'm a very deep thinker, and an overachiever,” he added. “I'm not giving up on this. I aim high … On this type of thing, you can't fall back. All you can do is settle at a peak. I know this T.A.G. thing will be successful. I consider this a revolutionary idea, and revolutions don't die easily.”

 

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