WARRENSBURG The conference room at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Warrensburg was crowded with representatives from police, youth, town government, parents, mental health and more as over 30 community members met to outline a plan for young people recently. The first exercise was to envision a vibrant community where all youth are safe, valued, connected to adults and their community, and have opportunities to contribute. This sparked ideas for a community center, youth employment opportunities, and a skateboard park, among others.
Amy Langworthy, principal of the elementary school, discussed Project SAVE funding earmarked for character education and community service projects for youth of all ages.
Young people in Warrensburg are the focus of a group of varying people who are working to engage the community in positive youth programs.
The Assets Coming Together (ACT) for Youth Initiative of Warren and Washington Counties have chosen Warrensburg and Fort Ann as their spotlight communities for this year.
Robin Lyle is the collaboration coordinator for the project which received a grant from the state Department of Health for $100,000 a year for 5 years.
We are promoting positive youth development in Warren and Washington counties, Lyle said. Whats different about this is that we dont target only youth at risk; we recognize that all young people need positive opportunities to use their strengths and caring adults.
The group recently created a questionnaire for 7th through 12th graders that asked for ideas to improve Warrensburg, and they received 98 viable ideas from the results.
Over 200 responded that they would be willing to help with projects to improve the community, Lyle said.
She said that young people who cause trouble with graffiti could have some artistic talents to rechannel, perhaps with a local mural project.
Warren County Youth Bureau Director Margaret Sing Smith said the initiative isnt to tell people what to do, but rather increase the capacity of the community to provide assets for young people.
Groups of teenagers can be intimidating to adults, she said. The fear and judgements between adults and youth needs to change. When adults hear from young people it can change their perspective. She cited an example of a teen teaching a parent to text messages on her cell phone to improve communications, or setting up a page on MySpace.
Very often teens that have to perform community service recognize the results of what theyve done and look for more, Sing Smith said. She has seen amazing growth and change at the Warren County Youth Court, where young people face a judge and jury of their peers for sentencing for minor offenses.
The ACT initiative offers youth initiated minigrants for youth-led projects that are designed to benefit young people ages 10-19. Teachers Tressa Gordon and Kelsi Johnson received a grant to fund a student created courtyard at the school. They envision a sculpture garden featuring student art and youth working with adults to build benches and picnic tables and design paths.
In November young people in Warrensburg will be involved in community mapping, which will identify resources available to youth in the community. The ACT group is working with Warrensburgs Junior Statesmen of America (JSA) members who will interview business owners, government officials, civic organization leaders and churches for information.
Anyone who might have resources like young customers or employees and what is needed to succeed and what is missing, said Sing Smith. They are even using GPS technology to map the resources in town.
Young people are so wired into technology, she said. This is an opportunity for them to show adults what they can do. By interacting with many adults during the mapping project, young people will develop relationships with adult leaders in the community.
They will become more connected, Sing Smith said. You need to be connected to your community to stay in school, and research shows that a connection with a caring adult can make a huge difference.
For information on the youth minigrants or other aspects of the program, contact Robin Lyle at 746-2391 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. ny.us .