Beacon students return with participatory pitches

For the second year, Beacon High School students from Participation in Government classes have made suggestions to the City Council on how to spend $10,000 in “participatory budgeting” money.

The council last year included funding in its budget for the initiative, which asks students to craft detailed presentations on “how to improve Beacon.” Students made their pitches to the council on Dec. 4, and on Monday (Dec. 18), in their final meeting of the year, council members will discuss how to divvy up the money.

“The students are seeing it work,” said Erin Haddeland, a teacher who is one of the organizers of the program. “Last year’s ideas were so tangible. That’s good for us as a program because they can see it directly in front of them.”

The 2022 proposals saw two basketball backboards and rims installed at South Avenue Park and water-bottle refilling stations added at Memorial and Green Street parks. The city did not financially support an idea to clean up the African American Union Burial Ground cemetery on North Walnut Street, but staff from the Department of Public Works have assisted as volunteers.

Implementation of the fourth idea, repairs to the municipal swimming pool, will be completed in the spring.

Every senior at Beacon High School takes Participation in Government, so all 180 members of the Class of 2024 had the opportunity to submit ideas. Teachers received about 100 pitches, Haddeland said, and from there it was up to the students to “see who would be willing to put in the time and effort to complete the project.”

Here are the ideas that students proposed on Dec. 4:

Jaidev Galvin and Vanessa Murphy asked the council to make improvements to the skateboard park at Memorial Park. The concrete foundation is filled with cracks, which can cause accidents, they said, and the placement of ramps is disjointed and pushes skaters or BMXers in a linear direction, rather than a square or circular path.

If the council chooses to fund the repairs, it will show “that we care for the kids, our youth — it shows a lot,” Galvin said. Murphy included a list of materials needed to repair the foundation and estimated it would cost $1,550.

Isabella Amundson asked the council to consider emergency blue-light phones in places where people may feel isolated, such as Memorial Park and where the Klara Sauer and Dennings Point trails meet near the Hudson riverfront. “More secluded” neighborhoods, parking lots and other trails were also mentioned as possible sites.

The 9-foot poles can be connected to phone service or automatically alert first responders if a button is pushed. “Not that Beacon is an unsafe place, but there are places where it would make people more comfortable,” said Amundson, who estimated the cost between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on whether phone service is added.

Ella Cason proposed a pollinator garden with three to four native flowering plants near the Recreation Department offices at 23 West Center St. Cason noted that pollinator gardens at Glenham and JV Forrestal elementary schools have thrived, and the Recreation Department would be a good site because the Green Teens program already has an established vegetable garden there.

“It’s important to start teaching kids at a young age to get interested and take part in their community,” she said, noting that members of the public would be more likely to help tend the garden in a well-known, open space. She estimated the cost of the plants, chicken wire to keep animals out, compost, mulch and materials for a gate at $2,000.

Mia Nelsen-Cheyne presented an idea that she and Cason also pitched to the Beacon school board: making contraceptives available to the community. (The students asked the school board in October to allow the Beacon High School nurse to distribute condoms to students. The board has not acted yet.)

Nelsen-Cheyne spoke about the growth of sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancy and said that sexual health “shouldn’t be taboo. It is something we should be working toward making safer.”

She suggested the Recreation Department as a possible site for a vending machine that would provide free condoms. That would cost between $1,400 and $2,000, though a cart or bins “would be just as effective,” Nelsen-Cheyne said. She said the high school’s Students for Gender Equality club could help with maintenance.

Two thousand condoms would cost about $140, “which is something that a bake sale can take care of,” she said.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

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