Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon is very much interested in convening a youth council of sorts, a group that would bolster the young community's visibility and involvement with the city.
One such council exists in Inman, South Carolina; Inman Mayor Cornelius Huff and the youth panel spoke to City Council on Monday night.
"When I heard about the program, I thought it was a great opportunity, an avenue to engage our youth," Osbon said after City Council adjourned.
Huff told City Council that when he was elected, there was a breakdown between the city and its younger residents.
"And I'll tell you, if you don't involve your youth, you won't have a future," Huff said.
Inman's youth council – known formally as the Mayor's Youth Council – has been up and running for about five years.
The youth council makes suggestions, attends Inman City Council meetings and is, overall, designed to keep "students and younger generations" connected to local affairs, according to the group's presentation.
"It's not only pitching ideas, it's finding a way to implement those ideas," Osbon said. "It's a process from conception to completion."
"The more that they're involved now, the higher the possibility that they will stay later in life and continue to contribute to our local community," the youth council's presentation read.
Those who want to join the Inman Mayor's Youth Council must apply – grades and community service, among other things, are taken into account, according to the group's presentation.
Huff said the youth council has greatly influenced his city.
"It's been night and day as far as having activity downtown," Huff said after the presentation. "And just the relationships, it has been unreal. Because when you have the youth involved, you have the parents involved, everybody involved."
In 2017, more than 32 percent of Aiken's population was 60 and older, according to a housing study.
By 2022, 35 percent of the city's estimated population, which is also expected to grow, will be 60 and older, per the same study.
About 18 percent of Aiken County residents are 65 and older, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates from 2017.
- By Colin Demarest, Aiken Standard