Taylorsville Youth Council spearheading holiday wreath project to honor deceased VeteransNov 03, 2022 07:55PM ● By Carl Fauver
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
A chance meeting during Taylorsville Dayzz last summer has led to one of the Taylorsville Youth Council’s most ambitious community service projects ever, planned for this winter.
“We were working our booth at Taylorsville Dayzz and I got to talking with a woman sitting in the next booth,” longtime city council coordinator and youth council adviser Kris Heineman said. “She told me about the groups Wreaths Across America (wreathsacrossamerica.org) and Honor365 (honor365.org). They work together during the holiday season to get wreaths – made from freshly-cut pine trees – laid at the graves of as many U.S. military Veterans as possible. It sounded like a great program for our youth council. So, I talked with them about it – they agreed – and here we are.”
Soon after that conversation, Heineman spoke with Taylorsville Cemetery officials who told her there are 255 military Veterans interred there. Youth council members are now encouraging residents to donate to the project. The wreaths – created in Maine and tied with a red velvet bow – are $15 each. One-third of that is donated back to Honor365 to support Veterans and emergency first responders.
“It will be nice to honor our city Veterans,” Heineman added. “If it goes over well in the community, we’ll consider it for an annual Taylorsville Youth Council activity.”
Heineman and Mayor Kristie Overson selected this year’s 15 youth council members in late September. The eight boys and seven girls were sworn in during the Oct. 5 Taylorsville City Council meeting. As it turned out, no applicants were turned down.
“We had 15 Taylorsville High School students apply for youth council and all of them were qualified,” Heineman said. “I get a lot of personal gratification working with these kids. I love watching them grow and develop many long-lasting relationships. Earlier this year, one of my former council members invited me to her wedding. And a few of them stop by our Taylorsville Dayzz booth every summer to say ‘hi.’ They are amazing, motivated kids.”
This year’s Taylorsville Youth Council is a bit unusual, because 20% of them have parents who either were, or are currently, very active in city government. They are:
- Joshua Taylor – whose father is Taylorsville City Administrator John Taylor
- Mason Harker – whose mother is current City Council Vice Chair Meredith Harker; and
- Walker Christopherson – whose dad is former City Councilman Brad Christopherson
By the way, the only reason Christopherson is “former” is that the family moved slightly over the Taylorsville border into Murray and he was no longer eligible to serve. Less than a year before the move, Christopherson was such a popular member of the city council he was reelected, unopposed.
“Walker first learned about youth council when he attended one of our city council meetings a few years ago,” Christopherson said. “I’m glad he decided to become involved because youth council opens kids’ eyes to real life government experience. It gives teens many opportunities to serve.”
Apparently Walker is a natural leader like his dad. Although only a junior at Taylorsville High, youth council members elected him as their mayor.
“I love the opportunity to serve Taylorsville and its residents,” the younger Christopherson said. “It’s fun to get to know people and to learn how the city operates.”
Two members of the Taylorsville Youth Council will also serve as student ambassadors, meaning they will have additional duties including attendance at business ribbon-cutting events. THS seniors Dillon Nguyen and Tyne Vanderbilt will also be eligible to earn scholarships from the city if they complete qualifying public service projects. Additionally, Vanderbilt was elected council chair.
“This is my third year on youth council and I love it,” she said. “You get to understand the community better. I particularly enjoy job shadowing, when we follow a city employee around for a day to see what they do. I love living in Taylorsville – it’s an amazing place to live.”
Nine seniors, five juniors and just one sophomore make up this year’s Taylorsville Youth Council. Two of them, Elijah and Kayla Nicoll, are siblings. Seven are brand new, while eight are returners.
One of the newcomers is City Administrator John Taylor’s son, Joshua.
“I’m a senior and I thought about applying for youth council earlier, but I was too busy with high school extracurriculars,” Taylor said. “I am on the school swim team and also sing with madrigals. I finally decided to try for youth council this year because it sounded exciting.”
Returning junior Mason Harker is excited to be back for a second year on the Taylorsville Youth Council.
“I love the people; we all get along so well,” Harker said. “And (adviser) Kris (Heineman) is so supportive. She helps us reach our goals. Last year I enjoyed our Day at the Legislature and our leadership conference at Utah State University. I am a cheerleader at Taylorsville High and busy with a lot of extracurriculars. But youth council was definitely a top priority.”
As for his mother – City Councilwoman Meredith Harker – she’s pleased Mason got involved, because she’s seen firsthand the value it has for students.
“I’ve gone with them for the Day at the Legislature and other activities; it’s a great learning experience,” she said. “I’ve also seen how much the youth council assists with Parks & Recreation Committee activities. I’m super proud of the work they do. Our youth council members are amazing future leaders.”
Heineman was recently recognized as one of the state’s leading youth council advisers, when she was elected to a 2-year term on the Utah Association of Youth Council’s 5-member board of directors.
“I have worked for Taylorsville City 10-and-a-half years and have been youth council adviser for eight,” Heineman said. “After I was elected to the board, we decided to create a brand-new program to train youth council advisers. At the training we talked about recruiting youth council members, fundraising and how to make government fun and exciting for the students. It was the first time we’ve offered training like that. I think it was helpful.”
The next big event for the Taylorsville Youth Council is coming Dec. 10, when members will assist with the “Saturday with Santa” event at the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center. A week later, Saturday, Dec. 17, is when council members will coordinate volunteers in laying the holiday wreaths at the military Veterans’ graves in Taylorsville Cemetery. Taylorsville High School’s Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps will also assist.