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Youth Action Network connects teens with their passions

MARYSVILLE People always talk about giving teens a place to play, but some local leaders are trying to build a place for teens to talk, plan and put their ideas to work.
Some cities have government-sponsored or coordinated youth councils but several business and community leaders want to establish an independent resource for kids to be able to use when they see the need. Jim Strickland is leading the effort and has founded the Marysville Youth Action Network, which he pitches as a clearinghouse for the aims and efforts of local teens who want to get more from, and do more for their community.
He teaches as Totem Middle School downtown and has been involved in several teen-oriented events, including an ethnic night at the former junior high organized by one of his students to bring people together to learn about their heritages and cultures.
Strickland said the network can be a framework for other teens who want to get something started and hes gotten many community leaders to sign on to the new venture. They are from a wide variety of groups, including the Marysville-Tulalip Chamber of Commerce, Campfire Girls, the Marysville School District, the Marysville YMCA and others. They will hold an initial public meeting Aug. 29 to hear what kids want and how to provide a productive outlet for their energies. Its scheduled for 2 p.m at the Marysville YMCA, 6420 64th St. NE.
He listed a pair of local college students who visited the Marysville City Council last month to find out how they could get a crosswalk installed in a busy intersection. Those 20-somethings also started their own organization and will be working with the network. But not every teen has the gumption to get up before an intimidating panel like a City Council, according to Strickland, who would like to build a platform for future enterprises initiated by area youths.
In his mind the youth network will be a switchboard to hook up kids with others who have similar interests and ambitions, and they will do the heavy lifting. But the adults at the table will provide direction and show them how to access the resources at their disposal.
Its just a connection that facilitates communication, Strickland said.
Were thinking eventually a youth council might be formed, connected to the city.
He looked at other cities, such as Everett, which has a mayors youth council, but Strickland thinks an official tie to the government is premature at this time. The goal now is to get the ball rolling, and since kids are out from school they will have more free time that they usually do.
We decided that the next thing we need is to hear from some young people, Strickland said. Were going to brainstorm ideas.
City Councilwoman Carmen Rasmussen has signed on and notes that many kids dont have an outlet to express or develop their interests. She is leaning against an official city-sponsored group because that would imply a top-down direction, and the goal here is to have ideas and energy wick upward from the teens themselves.
We dont do a very good job of engaging our youth around their passions, Rasmussen said. That really has been my motivation because once kids see something that they are really interested in serving, they are more likely to engage their government and their service groups.
Right now the phrase community service sounds like a criminal sentence or a graduation requirement to most teens, but they can be lured into the fun side of reaching out and working with the rest of the community if they are lured into. Rasmussen wants to appeal to their interests and sees the network as a vehicle.
She pointed to the Marysville Skate Park as a concrete example of what teens can accomplish. The popular teen hangout was sparked by kids wanting a legal place to roll; they went to the city and generated the momentum to get it built.
I think if we get that message out the youth will engage themselves and it would mean something because its something youre interested in, Rasmussen said.
The Marysville Youth Action Network will hold its first public meeting on Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. at the Marysville YMCA, 6420 64th St. NE. For more information contact Jim Strickland by phone at 425-870-7631 or email at livedemocracy@hotmail.com.

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