ANDERSON — New faces and new ideas characterized Thursday night's Unity Leadership Coalition. The focus of the meeting: identifying problems facing Madison County's students and youth.
The intended end goal is to provide solutions to those problems. Coalition heads Kim Townsend and Lindsay Brown said these initial meetings are laying the foundation for what they hope grows into something bigger. Local educators like Anderson High School Principal Terry Thompson and political leaders like City Councilman Rodney Chamberlain attended with the hope of creating fixes for local schools.
It was the second town hall meeting of the group in a month, and Townsend and Brown hope to have them regularly. Townsend admitted that for the coalition to make a real impact, they would need the students they're talking about to start coming as well.
"We need these youth here," Townsend said. "We need to hear what they have to say. And it would be helpful to have their parents and some teachers here, too."
The group used a SWOT analysis, identifying strengths and weaknesses in the community for young people, then opportunities and threats to those opportunities.
Attendees discussed how local students have the advantage of not facing the racial and social divides of the past, and their resilience in the face of many local changes in the recent decades. But the young people are also growing up in a community where hope is low and violence still exists, one person said. Technology problems at Anderson schools, a blue-collar community mentality and an inundation with negative messages from media were also cited as community shortfalls that are impacting students.
"Part of that is because of GM," Brown said. "They were here, and they fed a lot of mouths, and that was great. But now they're gone and we got stuck in that factory mentality. There's not the emphasis there should be on better engineering jobs."