Thursday December 27, 2012

In January, two high school seniors from Berkshire County will begin working with Gov. Deval Patrick.

Crystal Haynes, of Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown, and Chris Darroch, of Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton, are the newest members to the Governor’s Statewide Youth Council.

The 28 members, representing all 14 counties in Massachusetts, are the third Youth Council class and are assigned to serve for two years. The youths, ranging from ages 14 to 20, were sworn in Nov. 30 during a ceremony held at the Statehouse in Boston.

They will have their first meeting and orientation program in early January and continue to meet bi-monthly.

Joseph Grochmal, of Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, and Mollie Dimise, of Taconic High School in Pittsfield, are among 28 alternate members named to the new council class.

Students are invited to participate on the council based on an application and review process.

Haynes said she applied after initially looking for an internship with the governor’s office.

"That required a little more experience, so they recommended I try for this," Haynes said.

"I’ve always wanted to make a change for people," said Haynes, who, like Gov. Patrick, is a scholar of the national A Better Chance program for promising students of color.

"I also love having a voice and finding a way to help others have a voice," she said.

Haynes is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y. She enjoys public speaking and is a member of the Multicultural BRIDGE Youth Task Force, the UNITY teen community service and social group of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, and Kusika, a Williams College dance troupe focused on the performing arts of Africa and the African Diaspora.

At Wahconah, Darroch co-leads an organization called Students Committee for Change, is a percussionist for the school band and a member of the cross-country and ice hockey teams. He is also a member of the Berkshire District Attorney’s Youth Advisory Board and was a delegate to the American Legion’s Massachusetts Boys State citizenship and leadership conference last summer.

Darroch, who describes himself as someone who is "really into politics," applied for a position on the council as a way to further his involvement.

"This could be something that could really effect change," Darroch said of the council. "I think the one voice missing from politics is younger people."

Patrick established the youth council by an executive order in April 2008, in response to an outbreak of youth-related violence in the greater Boston area and in order to incorporate youth voices into the policy-making process. Today, the council’s purpose is to encourage young people to become engaged in their local communities and help tackle the state’s biggest challenges, including education reform and youth violence and anti-bullying efforts, by assuming leadership roles.

"The progress Youth Council members have made over the past several years is remarkable, and I am confident that this amazing group of young people will carry on that tradition and leave the commonwealth stronger for the next generation," Patrick said in a written statement.

Most notably, the council has been integral to the promotion and passage of the governor’s 2010 anti-bullying legislation and the establishment of "No Name Calling Day," which is held the fourth Wednesday of each January.

Youth Council members also gather independently to share what they see in their communities and talk about how state government can partner with local communities to create solutions. Darroch and Haynes said council members have already begun talking via social networks, about the issue of guns in schools in wake of this month’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Students and others interested in speaking with a member of the Governor’s Youth Council can contact the governor’s press office at (617) 725-4025.