The Select Board appointed a Youth Commission earlier this year, charged with creating programs and giving advice on behalf of the youth of Belmont. The Youth Commission disbanded more than 10 years ago due to lack of funding. The execution of the programs is the responsibility of the Youth Service Coordinator, assisted by members of the commission with administrative oversight by the director of the Health Department.
Marisa Melanson worked as Belmont's Youth Coordinator from December to April and is currently working five hours a week as a consultant. On June 10, the Youth Commission offered the youth coordinator position to Belmont resident Tiana Watson, who accepted and is expected to begin June 19, 19 hours per week at $25.50 per hour.
According to Health Department Director Wesley Chin, there were 69 applicants for the position. Watson is currently pursuing her Master's in social work student at Salem State University and has displayed a true passion for social justice and advocating for at risk populations, said Chin. She also has experience working at DCF with children in foster care and has also dedicated her career to working with various support groups for women.
Watson has also volunteered as a crisis hotline coach where she helped mitigate and assess risks primarily for youth via text message a medium to which youths easily connect, she said.
When she learned about the youth coordinator opportunity, Watson said she thought it was the perfect fit for her. "If you ask any social worker, adolescents and youths are typically some of the hardest ages with which to work. There are a lot of changing factors during this time in their lives that make things much more difficult. Students are vulnerable at this age and feel very real emotions. It's critical to give them a platform and healthy ways to express these emotions during this time. I find this population extremely rewarding and enjoyable to support," said Watson.
Melanson will help transition Watson into the role as the new Youth Coordinator over the next couple of weeks before stepping down. "A great deal of gratitude is owed to Marisa for re-starting the Youth Commission and also keeping it going during this period of transition," said Chin.
The Youth Commission most recently held a scavenger hunt in Belmont Center for children of all ages which was well attended. The winner of the hunt received a free Underwood Pool pass for 2019. This summer they will be working on plans for future programs and fundraising.
The Youth Commission has nine members, including three Belmont High School students, Victoria Lesser, Zachary Gillette and Alyssa Gould. Dr. David Alper is the chairman. Other members are Suzanne Morris, Gavin Farrell, Laura Panos and Sarah Wynn.
Alper said the commission really liked Watson's enthusiasm and believe it will be well received by the youth of Belmont.
"We are looking for a 'Pied Piper' that kids will follow through activities, events, talks and general 'hanging together' times and we saw a sparkle in Tiana that makes us believe she can reach youth of a broad age range and have them want to be with her," he said.