Magazine recognizes Mayor’s Youth Council’s efforts to combat racism

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2001

Take a closer look at your USA Weekend Magazine today. It just may contain some familiar faces.

The Natchez Mayor’s Youth Council is one of only two state winners from Mississippi in the national Make a Difference Day Annual Challenge, sponsored by USA Weekend and the Points of Light Foundation.

Last October, the Mayor’s Youth Council organized a &uot;Rally against Racism&uot; as part of the nationwide Make a Difference Day. The annual movement is designed to encourage corporations and volunteer organizations to sponsor service projects in their community.

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As part of the rally, &uot;One Natchez,&uot; the youth council were joined by local teens in talking openly about racism within the community, especially stereotyping.

They challenged the community and elected officials to admit racism is a problem in Natchez and Adams County and encouraged those present to find ways to get to know people of other races.

Along with being recognized in the April 20-22 issue of USA Weekend, the youth council also receives a $2,000 award from&160;Wal-Mart, which they will donate to the United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou.

&uot;I’m very, very proud of them,&uot; said Gretchen Kuechler, youth council sponsor.

&uot;(Racism) is something that people can be sensitive about and have strong feelings about, and by talking about that easily, they set aside people’s reservations and put everyone at ease,&uot; she said.

&uot;They were not going to be accusing people, or placing blame, they were just trying to get people to think about it,&uot; Kuechler said.

Kelly Fuller, youth council president and Natchez High School senior, said she couldn’t be more proud to be named as a state winner.

&uot;It was such an honor,&uot; she said. &uot;I actually didn’t think we were going to be able to pull it off. It seemed like such a big task, and it’s such a controversial issue. But we did it.&uot;

Fuller said months of planning and special meetings went into the project.

&uot;What made it 100 percent better was that everybody was honest,&uot; Fuller said. &uot;Nobody held their tongue. It really surprised me how honest everybody was.&uot;

Casey Etheridge, an Adams County Christian School senior, said she was equally surprised by the recognition.

And by winning the state award, the message of the rally carries even further.

&uot;It continues much farther than I ever thought it would,&uot; she said.

But the youth council is not the only local group to be honored by USA&160;Weekend. Natchez Middle School won a local newspaper award for its &uot;Reading Makes a Difference&uot; program, where parents were encouraged to take an active role in their child’s education through reading.

Judges for the program included Paul Newman, Justin Timberlake of ‘N Sync and Doug Flutie.

More than 2.2 million people nationwide participated in the 2000 Make a Difference Day.