Youth tourism program strengthens attractions

Members of the inaugural Youth Tourism Board were presented certificates of achievement at the Brownsville City Board meeting on May 14. Pictured (from left) are Mayor Jo Matherne, Rebecca Pearson, Emily Pilant, HHS Principal Dr. Jerry Pyron and Delta Heritage Center Director Sonia Outlaw-Clark. 

Conner Coulston also received a certificate of achievement for his participation in Brownsville’s first Youth Tourism Board.

Conner Coulston web

A pilot program that involves youth in tourism is underway in Brownsville. Through a partnership with Haywood High School and the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, students are evaluating local attractions and making suggestions for sustainable tourism.

The program is designed to strengthen local attractions by making them more appealing to a younger audience. At the same time, students are learning the connection between tourism and economic development and how tourism can bring more jobs and people to the community.

To qualify for the Board, students in the high school’s local government class were asked to write an essay entitled “Tourism: Do we need it?” The essays were evaluated and three students, Rebecca Pearson, Emily Pilant and Conner Coulston, were chosen to participate in the inaugural board.

The youth board was treated to guided tours of local attractions. Afterwards, students and curators sat down for frank round-table discussions about the students’ experience. Students asked questions and offered fresh perspectives and ideas about how to make a primarily history product more relevant to today’s youth.

“It was very eye-opening to spend time with these students and to hear their ideas,” says Delta Heritage Center Director Sonia Outlaw-Clark. “We came away with practical things we can do to better present our tourism products.”

“You Are Here” signage to orientate visitors to their surroundings and give perspective to where historical events took place was among easily implemented suggestions. Other ideas included digital collections on websites and better use of social media.

“While we know we can’t immediately implement all the ideas,” says Clark, “we are confident that with fresh eyes looking at our attractions each year, we will be able to strengthen our facilities and attract more visitors.”

The program also has a hands-on element that gives students a chance to implement their idea or help with aspects of current programming. When a new board is chosen this fall, each will receive a T-shirt designed especially for the program by the inaugural group.

Special recognition was given to the students during Brownsville’s May City Board meeting. Each student was presented a certificate of achievement from City Mayor Jo Matherne and HHS Principal Dr. Jerry Pyron. Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker also signed the certificates.

For more information about the Youth Tourism Board, contact Clark at 731-779-9092.