Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Youth Act


Town Hall Meeting a Great Success

Last Wednesday (March 4), more than 70 community members met at Trimble High School in Glouster, Ohio for a Town Hall Meeting facilitated by Bridge Builders and Rural Action to plan for the future of youth in our region. Notable attendees at the event included county commissioners Larry Payne and Lenny Eliason, as well as Athens County sheriff Pat Kelly. The focus of the conversations at the meeting were identifying elements within the Trimble Township community that threatened the welfare of area youth, sustaining the youth programs that are already in place in the region, and implementing new ideas. Speakers included Kathy Trace from Bridge Builders, Kerri Shaw from Girl Power, and Mary Steinmaus from Rural Action.

Bridge Builders is a community coalition working to support groups and positive activities that enhance the lives of our youth. While their primary focus is on preventing drug and alcohol abuse, the group recognizes that the health and stability of the entire community plays a critical role in the health and welfare of our youth. During the past four years, they have supported a variety of programs already available for young people. They want to continue that work in a more strategic way by filling gaps in youth programming that are supported by the community.

As part of this discussion, the participants were asked to divide up into small groups for a “mapping” session in which everyone was asked to identify activities and programs for youth that are currently active in Trimble Township. Some of the more prominent programs mentioned included school-based activities like varsity sports, Girl Power, and PAWS; religious youth groups like Young Life; and community youth groups like the Junior Order of Eagles, The Boy Scouts, and 4-H.


However, the most remarkable part of the evening came when the groups were asked to “dream” by thinking about the future and what they would like to see happen for youth in Trimble Township. Here are some of the ideas that were being discussed:
  • A community center, including athletic facilities
  • A more vibrant downtown
  • Better communication about these programs to the wider community
  • Establish a Youth Center - a safe place for young people to meet
  • Art classes
  • Giving local youth a sense that they have a future here
  • Resurrecting a sense of community pride
  • Mentorships and apprenticeships in the community
At the end of the evening, there was palpable energy and enthusiasm about taking these next steps – with almost 20 people signed up to become part of the Bridge Builders coalition. It was clear at the meeting that people want to see positive changes in their community; they want youth to be active, serving and to feel that their future is here. And they also want adults to be mentors and guides that work in partnership with youth as part of the solution. Bridge Builders funded this event, with help from a Grant to Reduce Alcohol Abuse (GRAA)

Mary Steinmaus, coordinator of our Youth Act program, helped the Bridge Builders organize this meeting – many thanks to her for a job well done. Other volunteers from Rural Action were also on hand to help guide these group discussions, as well as provide support during the event. We would like to thank Tori Patterson, Heather Sheets, Candi Withem, and Suzanne Fisher along with all of the other volunteers for giving their time to help make this event such a success. We at Rural Action would also like to thank Bridge Builders for all that they are doing for youth in the Trimble Township community. We look forward to continuing our partnership with them in the future.

A report of the ideas generated during this meeting will be made available to everyone who participated in the coming weeks, as Bridge Builders begins to create their strategic plan for the next five years. For more information, email Mary Steinmaus (marys@ruralaction.org).

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