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Youth Action Network gets teens plugged into community

J.J. Frank of the Snohomish County YMCA, left, listens to teens describe the opportunities they would like to see develop, left, in the Marysville area.  Were really excited about hearing from you today, Frank said. -
J.J. Frank of the Snohomish County YMCA, left, listens to teens describe the opportunities they would like to see develop, left, in the Marysville area. Were really excited about hearing from you today, Frank said.
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MARYSVILLE If you can get 40 teenagers to ignore a fresh pizza for an hour, youre onto something and the Marysville Youth Action Network has found it.
Last week was the first meeting of the new civic group where local leaders were trying to tap into a great energy source: teenagers.
They have a lot of energy that gets wasted and so do a lot of opportunities for teens to contribute to their community while having fun. Many of the adolescents at the initial organizing meet said they often want to contribute to events but they dont feel the welcome mat is out. And community service gets a bad rap because so often it is meted out as a punishment and not the enriching activity it can be.
Alyssa Stultz is a student at Marysville Arts & Technology High School and she got a chorus of nods from her peers when she said community service was usually a synonym for punishment and that detracted from getting teens to volunteer for more activities.
Ive never volunteered but Ive been forced to clean up Comeford Park, Stultz said to a round of laughter. Community service usually sounds like a horrible thing to the Clearasil set, she added.
Some schools are getting teens into the act with service learning, which has much less of a stigma, said Breanna Wickberg.
Shes already on the ball, serving on the Marysville Historical Society board of directors, but she said there should be more opportunities for her peers to get involved. Wickberg said the library could be a focus of many teen-oriented efforts.
A group of males said the Boys and Girls Club was a great place but the facility on the Tulalip Indian Reservation was too remote for most teenagers, who dont have cars or drivers licenses. Jeff Sam is a break dancer who would like a venue to dance and to teach others to dance. But most adults take a dim view of break dancers and they usually get kicked out, he added.
The goal wasnt to put the teens to work on any particular task but to find out what they are interested in and to find ways to hook them up with opportunities. Some of the things they wanted to see:
A teen dance or music venue.
Bike trails or a BMX park for riders to play at.
A concert series, put on by teens featuring local teen bands.
A series of nights for games, karaoke or movies.
A wall for graffiti painting that wouldnt be considered vandalism.
The meeting was held at the Marysville YMCA and several youth and teen program directors were involved, but the network has no official tie to the Y. In fact many teens said they wanted a venue or activity closer to their homes, and that some Y activities conflicted with their work or school schedules. One teen said a local church hosts teen concerts and would be open to hosting other events.
Many teens said transportation was an obstacle and proposed building a corps of volunteers to help teens get where they needed to be, or to find locations that were closer to their homes.
For Lila Hart, it was good to hear the ideas of her peers and she learned a lot about their interests and ideas. The Marysville-Pilchuck junior said there should be more opportunities for teens to volunteer in the area.
Im very surprised to see some of these people here, Hart said. Somethings bound to happen.
Regina Wike is the teen coordinator for the Marysville YMCA and she noted that a lot of connections and contacts were made at the meeting. The network is not a YMCA program but Wike and minority affairs director J.J. Frank were involved, along with Laura Tillman, teen librarian with the Marysville Public Library. They are a few of the dozen or so adults who are shepherding the networks initial moves.
Wike said she was anxious to see some results, but wasnt sure what they might be.
Somethings going to come of it, Wike said.
The next meeting of the Marysville Youth Action Network will be held
at 4 p.m., Sept. 12 at the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce, 8825 34th Avenue, Suit 1A.
For more information contact organizer Jim Strickland via email at livedemocracy@hotmail.com or by phone at 425-870-7631.

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