Youth Network plugging teens into the system

MARYSVILLE The whirling motion of color, the thumping bass and raucous laughter at the Allen Creek gym started with an idea in the heads of several local teens.
But how to get the ball rolling?
Thats where the Maryville Youth Action Network came in.
The best way to describe the network is as an organization in search of the mission. The brainchild of Totem Middle School teacher Jim Strickland, the MYAN is designed to be a resource for youths looking to get something started.
That could be a new teen hangout, a way to contribute to the community or an ad hoc program to entertain themselves over the summer. The network was established to give teens the know-how and resources to make a lasting impression, without getting frustrated or giving up. The idea is to have a system in place to make the right connections. The person with the idea will be able to hook up with the person who can make things happen, and the network will serve as the switchboard, putting people in touch with each other.
For the break dancers, it was a chance to spread their love for the dance and build support for the art. A handful of students at Marysville-Pilchuck High School were the spark and they got the ball rolling with help from staff at the Marysville branch of the Snohomish County YMCA.
Teen programs director Regina Wike knew there was an after school program across the street from the Y at Allen Creek Elementary School and, like a switchboard operator, she made some calls and the M-P boys made something happen.
Getting the program rolling took absolutely no effort at all because of the boys infectious enthusiasm for break dancing, according to Wike. Besides spreading break dancing to a larger audience, the program is also giving the teens a chance to mentor younger kids. Wike said the teens have taken charge and never need to be reminded that its time to go.
They are just very passionate about break dancing, its their life, its their sport, Wike said. They see it as a way to add legitimacy to their sport.
Its probably the first tangible fruit of the MYAN, which has met a couple of times a month over the summer when teens were off from school and once a month since school started. Anyone is welcome to attend the meetings, and Strickland is hoping to induce any organization that deals with teens to stop by and listen or pitch an idea. So far members have brainstormed about a dozen ideas, and some are moving forward.
Breanna Wickberg is a student at Totem Middle School who is interested in creating a BMX riding park for bicycles. Right now there is an ad hoc site near Pinewood Elementary School where motocross riders use a vacant lot. Wickberg wants a dedicated site similar to the Marysville Parks Departments Skate Park, and she put together a plan and resented it to the departments advisory board. Carmen Rasmussen is a Marysville City Councilwoman who serves on the board and heard Wickbergs plan.
She presented a very credible case and did a really good job, Rasmussen said. She demonstrated a lot of get up and go. Shes very excited and motivated and the park board received her really well. And the park board is open to the possibility.
Parks department director Jim Ballew said that as long as the kids determine a need for such a facility and can raise some money to help develop a plan, it could happen. Thats how the Skate Park was built and Ballew estimated it took only a couple of years after the idea was first pitched.
For Strickland these are the types of things that teens need a little bit of help with, and MYAN is poised to provide it.
The break dancers from the YMCA are some of the most talented, passionate young people Ive ever met, Strickland said. They have a very clear vision of what they want, and theyre not afraid to go after it. These youth see break dancing as a powerful art form that allows them to be creative and express themselves, but its also about more than just having fun. They are making our community a better place for kids and theyre having a blast doing it. Thats impressive.
He said the kids have found something they like and spreading it to others is what MYAN is there to help with. He said Wikes help getting the program going was crucial.
Regina cares about these kids and they know it, Strickland said. They have the passion and the dreams and Regina just helps them put their dreams in motion.
The next meeting of the Marysville Youth Action Network will be held Nov. 28, 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Ken Baxter Senior and Community Center, at 514 Delta Avenue, Marysville.

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