Members of the Newton County NAACP Youth hosted a community appreciation gala banquet including entertainment, awards and a keynote speech Saturday night at Henderson's Banquet Hall.
NAACP Youth Advisor Cathalene Perry also managed the organization of the first appreciation gala last year and said the group under her direction will continue to host one every year.
"We felt it was necessary to show our support and appreciation for all the community has done for us," said Taylor Reese, Newton County NAACP Youth president.
Members Portia Farley and Brukaious Daniel presented plaques and certificates to those who have dedicated their time and effort to helping Perry and youth members.
Barbara Dingler received the volunteer of the year award and Wasteen Williams received an award for chaperone of the year.
Others honored were the Rev. Hezekiah Benton Jr., Victor Orgo, former county NAACP Youth Adviser Archie Shepherd, Minister Rose Crawford, Dawona Young, Judge Horace Johnson Jr., Shoanmarie Seals, Timothy Ball and Agnes Moorehead.
Former Newton County NAACP Youth member and current assistant principal at West Newton, Alison Jackson, was the event's keynote speaker.
"Traditionally we have been taught that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger," Jackson said. "No guys - Kanye West did not invent that phrase."
She encouraged the teenagers to strive to be the best persons they could be and learn as much as they possibly can.
"Youth of the millennium I challenge you to be harder, better, faster, stronger," Jackson said.
Jackson said she wanted today's young people to be harder to persuade by the consumer media and harder to pressure by their peers into taking drugs or having sex.
She wanted students to make themselves better prepared and equipped with a good education.
"The court demands you to go to school 180 days a year," Jackson said, "but just going to school isn't enough."
She said students should have a genuine interest in their educations and set personal and career goals for themselves.
"So many people settle for the quick money, but what happens when that falls through - what's your plan B," Jackson asked.
She added becoming a better person also meant adopting a humble attitude.
"Better doesn't mean looking down on those who are less fortunate," Jackson said.
Jackson wanted students to become faster to help others, thank others, not to blame others, not to make excuses and to learn from the mistakes of the past.
"We as a people have a history of having a strong backbone," Jackson said. "Why not for a strong faith, mentality and integrity?"
She said students should become stronger by making a stand for their beliefs, striving to make a difference in their community and not quitting.
"Everything I am not is everything I am - make your haters your motivators," Jackson said.
She concluded her speech by saying the world is waiting on the youth of today.
"Take the first step - let God lead you," Jackson said. "Take a chance and march to your destiny, youth of the millennium."
Sheriff Joe Nichols then addressed the adults in the audience saying he is tired of answering the question: what is wrong with our young people today?
Nichols explained good children and bad children have always existed.
Perry said in her five years as youth adviser none of her boys or girls had been placed in handcuffs.
"I challenge you to start saying 'what's right with our kids,'" Nichols said to the attending adults, "and let's show them we're proud of them."
Concluding the gala, Perry asked if any of the award recipients had anything they wanted to say.
Agnes Moorehead said she was proud of the NAACP Youth members and then also addressed the adults in the audience.
"The youth is our future," Moorehead said at the event. "We need to listen to them, support them and show them love."