On a typical third Thursday night of the month when many Amherst County High School students are working jobs, watching television or engaging in a range of activities, senior Kennedy Campbell is at the county’s administration building helping review land use and zoning matters.
The Elon resident is a youth participant on the Amherst County Planning Commission, a group that forwards monthly recommendations to the county’s board of supervisors and weighs in on an array of zoning-related matters monthly. Her involvement with the commission started following the 2019 school year and as a youth participant she sits with commissioners, reviews matters that from Community Development Director Jeremy Bryant and other staff, listens to the public during hearings and asks questions.
“I thought it was just interesting, the thought of serving on the local government,” Kennedy said during a recent interview. “And I learned a lot more about what’s going on in our county.”
She said she enjoys sitting among commissioners, who are appointed by the board of supervisors, and listening to a range of speakers who come forward to share their opinions.
“It’s a lot to take in, especially the zoning,” Kennedy said of serving the commission in general and the helpful information it brings. “It’s taught me a lot about uses of land and certain regulations.”
Kennedy and a Liberty University student, Alex Goins, are the first two to take part in the commission’s youth participant initiative that kicked off last year and are serving two-year terms.
Bryant said the county feels having the direct youth involvement is a benefit.
“It was a belief the planning commission felt having a different perspective, a youth perspective, was a good thing,” Bryant said.
The age limits are 16 to 21 and the longest a youth participant can serve is five years, Bryant said.
Kennedy said after graduation this spring she will attend Virginia Tech and study engineering. She said she has observed conditions the commission makes on projects and applications many times is due to environmental reasons.
She feels preserving and protecting the environment, especially in a county such as Amherst that is zoned mostly agricultural, is a crucial aspect of the need for zoning.
“It has taught me a lot, and I feel like I want to have a voice and it has given me an outlet to have that voice,” Kennedy said of her experience on the commission.
She also enjoys the relationships formed with the other commissioners who give of their time to serve the county. “They’re super cool,” Kennedy said of getting to know them.
A participant in the regional Governor’s STEM Academy at Heritage High School prior to the recent closure of all public and private schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, she attended Amherst County High School for three class periods and said her best friends were in arts courses.
“I would say it’s super tight-knit,” she said of her friendships at ACHS.
Kennedy also had major roles in the high school’s drama productions in recent years, including in plays such as “The Addams Family,” “The Little Mermaid” and most recently “No Body to Murder,” among others.
Patricia Emmert, drama instructor at ACHS, described Kennedy as a humble, strong, calm, mature and responsible natural leader.
“She has choreographed the last three musicals and has done such a professional job. She is bursting with talent,” Emmert said. “When she is onstage she is captivating, charismatic and always focused. I never worried about her ... if anything was thrown her way she made it look intentional.”
Emmert said Kennedy was born to do live theater. “The sky’s the limit with that young lady,” she said.
The Amherst County School Board also has had youth participants in recent years. Carson Peters, also of ACHS, is the board’s current student liaison member and is invited monthly to share his thoughts on issues and areas affecting students in the school system.
Kennedy said he would certainly recommend the role she currently holds to any future students. She is interested in pursuing a career in environmental law or sustainable energies, such as solar power.
“So this has really helped me get an idea of what that is,” she said of her involvement with the county.
She believes sustainable energies are an area that have much potential. “I think they need to be explored more,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s a great resource.”
A product of Elon and spending much time outdoors with her family and friends, she said she has enjoyed gardening with her father and grandfather. She describes the village area as a wonderful place to grow up and treasured her time at Elon Elementary.
“I love Elon so much,” Kennedy said with a huge smile. “I still wish I was in elementary school sometimes. It’s fun there.”
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.