High schoolers have been known to cut class and not do their homework.
Not the Junior Board of the Watson-Brown Foundation.
The 10-member board, made up of local high school students, is allocated $25,000 a year to either restore or preserve historical sites of their choosing. They do extensive research, visit sites, then debate among themselves where to give their money. Then they present the Watson-Brown Board of Trustees with their final recommendations.
It's a lot of responsibility, but Junior Board member Jenni Holes, a sophomore at Washington-Wilkes High School, relishes the position.
"I guess I don't look at it as pressure but as an opportunity and a positive responsibility that I get to make an impact on a community, our community," she said on a recent board site visit to the Thomson Museum.
Members of the Watson-Brown Foundation Junior Board are Ben Porter, a junior at Thomson High School (top row, from left); Andrew Brown, a junior at Briarwood Academy; T.J. Mimbs, a junior at Briarwood; foundation Executive Director Mary Anne Coussons (front, from left); LeAnn Walton, a junior at Lincoln County High School; Carrie Burton, a senior at Lincoln County High; and Jenni Holes, a junior at Washington-Wilkes High School. Other board members are Adam Russell, a senior at Washington-Wilkes; Chelsey Willis, a senior at Lincoln County High; Edee Carey, a sophomore at Greenbrier High School; and Daniel Newsome, a senior at Washington-Wilkes.
Photo by Elwood Hamilton
The board is led by the executive director of the Watson-Brown Foundation, Mary Anne Coussons, who serves as a guide and mentor to the group of teens. She even takes them on overnight visits to sites as part of research. But make no mistake: the fate of the money rests solely in the hands of the Junior Board.
Coussons said she couldn't be happier with her Junior Board members.
"They just have a love of history and they want the history to be preserved," she said. "If they don't preserve history, who is going to?"
In the past, the Junior Board has restored the Thomson Memorial Cemetery - first by cleaning it up themselves, then by providing a groundskeeper to permanently maintain the facility - and provided video cameras for the Washington Historical Museum. The cameras are not only used as surveillance devices, but by disabled visitors who cannot ascend to the second floor in order to view the exhibits.
T.J. Mimbs, a junior at Briarwood Academy, thinks that the advantages to being on the Junior Board go well beyond the present.
"To me it really prepares me for the real world in the way if I choose to be on a board like this in the future or do things like this in the future, it kind of prepares me and educates me," he said.
Prospective board members are first nominated by history teachers and other school officials, and then the current board makes the final decision. The board's decision on where to donate their money will come later this year.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.