As the result of a youth summit hosted by Schuylkill County Commissioners George Halcovage and Gary Hess, as well as Kay Jones of Schuylkill County's VISION program, 16 areas schools are moving forth with plans to make the county a more livable place for their generation.
The summit was hosted at the Pottsville courthouse back in March and attended by two ambassadors from each school, Sen. Dave Argall (R-29) and members of local commerce.
All of the students in the county were first surveyed in December 2012 on what they think are the area's problems and whether or not they plan to remain in the area after graduation. The summit examined the results of the survey and discussed how the schools and the commissioners can make Schuylkill County better for area youth and how to stop the out-migration from the county that occurs after graduation.
Each school presented the summit with plans for a project to better the area.
Mahanoy Area High School has already participated in a schoolwide cleanup and will be conducting a townwide cleanup of Mahanoy City before August.
Marian Catholic High School plans to update the school's microphones and sound equipment to improve weekly Mass and benefit community events.
Schuylkill Technology Center: North Campus plans to clean up the walking area around Locust Lake and use the carpentry program to build new benches or picnic tables for the park.
Schuylkill County Technology Center: South Campus plans to host an annual clean-a-thon for the county.
Tamaqua Area School District is working to generate awareness of drug and alcohol abuse and hopes to create a school/community drug and alcohol task force by next year.
The majority of the other school projects include increasing youth activities, fostering school pride and cleaning up the area.
Kay Jones of Schuylkill County Vision said in a news conference for the survey results on Thursday afternoon, "It's really important that (the students) feel like they can make a difference."
Five of the schools were given $500 in funding from the Schuylkill Chamber foundation. Four were given $100. The nine schools must match the funding they received.
The students will meet again on July 25 to continue to work on their respective projects. The schools must complete their projects by the 2014 youth summit, where plans will be developed for new improvement projects.
"This is something that is going to be ongoing. We aren't going to put the information on a shelf and forget about it," said Hess.
"If we put it all on a shelf, we're the fools."