Fort Cavazos teens seek to incite change during forum

By Janecze Wright, Fort Cavazos Public AffairsMarch 22, 2024

Greta Buccellato, Fort Cavazos deputy to the garrison commander, engages with teens during the Teen Chain of Communication forum March 14, 2024, at Montague Youth Center. (U.S. Army photo by Janecze Wright, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
Greta Buccellato, Fort Cavazos deputy to the garrison commander, engages with teens during the Teen Chain of Communication forum March 14, 2024, at Montague Youth Center. (U.S. Army photo by Janecze Wright, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas —  Teens, Child and Youth Services representatives and installation leaders gathered March 14 at the Montague Youth Center here to discuss issues that impact youth on the installation and within the community and improve quality of life for young adults at the Great Place.

Surrounded by students of varying ages seated on bleachers, Greta Buccellato, Fort Cavazos deputy to the garrison commander, Peter Craig, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director, and Sheila Curtis, chief of Fort Cavazos Child and Youth Services, listened as the Teen Chain of Communication weighed in on issues that affect the way they live and learn.

Teens addressed the lack of competitive sports and teen events, the desire for better lunch and snack options, updated gaming equipment and better Wi-Fi, as well as more serious issues such as teen smoking and vaping, increased fighting, gang related violence, littering and graffiti.

Using a slide presentation as a guide, three teens took turns addressing the leadership panel and their peers about specific issues and resolutions for each.

Leele Fitzpatrick, spoke about youth center issues, specifically recommending more competitive sports. She proposed having volleyball, basketball, pickleball and football teams, creating middle school and high school teams and having an awards ceremony at the end of the season.

“I wasn’t just speaking as one person, I’m speaking from my whole community and letting them know this is what we need to be addressed,” she said.

Malia O’Neal addressed school conflicts, highlighting issues such as increased fighting and gang related violence. She recommended zero tolerance for fighting and educating youth on conflict resolution.

Greta Buccellato, Fort Cavazos deputy to the garrison commander, presents teens Malia O'Neal, Leele Fitzpatrick and Gem Jenkins with challenge coins following the Teen Chain Communication forum March 14, 2024, at Montague Youth Center. (U.S. Army photo by Janecze Wright, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
Greta Buccellato, Fort Cavazos deputy to the garrison commander, presents teens Malia O'Neal, Leele Fitzpatrick and Gem Jenkins with challenge coins following the Teen Chain Communication forum March 14, 2024, at Montague Youth Center. (U.S. Army photo by Janecze Wright, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

“These issues are mandatory, and we need to know more about them to prevent them from happening,” she said. “I was speaking for people that can’t stick up for themselves and need somebody else to speak for them.”

Gem Jenkins focused on issues within the community, such as littering, graffiti and vaping. She shared that some of the issues resonated with her personally.

She suggested vape detectors in schools and more education on harmful effects of smoking and vaping. She also advised educating teens about recycling and creating opportunities to partner with community leaders for clean-up initiatives.

“I don’t feel like art should be used to ruin how the community looks,” she said of the litter and graffiti she and other teens are seeing more often. “I have friends that aren’t willing to speak up for themselves. So, I need to help them and help their voices to be heard.”

Mitchell Ledet, the 2024 Fort Cavazos Military Youth of the Year, conveyed that the opportunity to address issues with those that can affect change is invaluable.

“Being able to speak to people who have the direct power to change things allows (teens) to get faster results and feel as if their concerns are heard,” he said.

Curtis said that it’s imperative for teens to have a platform to speak directly to Fort Cavazos leadership about their concerns.

“They get an opportunity to speak with leadership, but then they also get an opportunity to voice their concerns based on what’s going on in their lives and also give solutions to what concerns they have, and what their peers are faced with every day as it relates to being a military teen,” she stated.

Buccellato said she was impressed with the teens’ ability to speak on behalf of their peers and presented challenge coins to the three youth representatives.

“You took the time to not only develop your issues but share that with people who can help you make a difference,” she said. “The teens that represent the youth of our military community here, they have issues and concerns that don’t always have a voice in our processes. So, to hear from the teens about the issues they’re facing and that they need us to focus on in our community is fantastic.

“One of the things I really appreciate is that we get to come back to them and tell them what we’re doing to help resolve those issues,” she continued. “It’s important to hear their voice and to act on their concerns. It’s the highlight of my year.”