Carl DeLine

In second community summit, youth give voice

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With “Youth Voice” as the name of the organization behind the series of Community Summits on Youth, it was fitting Monday night to hear mainly from that demographic at the second event at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Mankato.

For the most part, youth ranging from high school-age to the early 20s provided insightful and inventive responses to the needs of youth in the community. Of course, as young people are known to do, there were a couple of humorous moments in the reports from youth survey information on a variety of topics — places youth said they avoid in Greater Mankato, for example.

As Rickell Nielson reported, the top 10 places youth avoid are: Burger King (which happens to be Nielson’s favorite place to eat), Mankato West High School, schools, Mayo Clinic Health System of Mankato, Spencer’s in the mall, SuperAmerica, Hiniker Pond, dark alleys, graveyards and Long John Silver’s.

But beyond the moment of facetiousness, a panel of youth presented on the top five areas of need compiled from feedback at the first Community Summit on Youth several weeks ago.

“There’s a strong need for youth mentoring,” said Jeremy Jaskuloski, who moved to the Mankato area two months ago. “There’s always going to be a need for it.”

Beginning a mentorship program was one suggestion he had, which could connect youth mentors to each other and create adult-to-youth mentor relationships.

While formal mentorship programs are helpful, Jaskuloski said he believes most youth benefit from informal, more casual mentor relationships. He and co-panelist Addy Payne said they both moved here from cities where there were youth or teen centers, where youth-to-youth mentoring and those kinds of casual conversations took place.

Payne, who moved to the area about a year ago from Northfield, said her former city’s youth center, The Key, was youth-run, including selection of programming, performers and youth staffing.

“For me, personally, I believe something like that would be good in Mankato,” Payne said.

Payne said such a center also could help solve the issue of youth requesting more affordable activities, such as movie nights, book club meetings and free performances held at the center.

“I know that my youth center made me who I am today,” said Payne, who also spoke on the need for additional transportation, such as expanded bus routes.

Paul Ramsden discussed the issue of jobs and resources needed, reflecting on his experience as a bagger at Econofoods in St. Peter. He said youth need to be taught about fiscal responsibility. He also went around to area business people and learned what they look for in employees: determination and work ethic, for examples.

Bobby Wise reflected on the importance of community conversations, such as the youth summits. He said the more open ears among adults in the community, the more youth will share. That’s the best way for the community to focus on youth’s true needs and turn those ideas into reality, he said.

“The youth aren’t the only ones who need this,” Wise said. “The adults need it, too.”

“Boy, the wisdom that comes from our youth,” said Bonnie Stanton, Youth Voice community organizer.

Stanton and keynote speaker Carl DeLine, an expert on youth development, likened the mission of Youth Voice to a softball game, calling the series of summits a “seven-inning plan” with seven summits planned. The third will be this spring, and the last five will take place every other month throughout the year.

Stanton said the team-building of various players/supporters in the community is also an important part of the process.

“We need to build a strong team of 10 players to win the game,” Stanton said.

Originally published March 11, 2013 by The Free Press (Mankato, MN), credited to Amanda Dyslin.