SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Ketchikan Speaks Out
"Enough is Enough - A Community Conversation"


January 19, 2010

Ketchikan, Alaska - It's not just about talkingit's about coming together to make a difference in our community. 300 citizens came together on January 12th at the Ted Ferry Civic Center to express their concerns about the problems our community is facing from drugs, suicides, domestic violence, drop-outs, homelessness, social and economic issues. The facilitator, Cathy LeCompte, extolled, "We need to work together. Everybody needs to be involved in our city. It not us, then who?

jpg Ketchikan Speaks Out

Ketchikan Speaks Out
Photograph by Bobbie McCreary©
Photograph courtesy Ketchikan Youth Initiatives

Clearly participants were most concerned about our youth and their future in our community with discussions about parenting, mentoring, dropouts, schools drugs and suicides, youth related topics in general. Starting it off, Jim Eakes read a letter from "Snapper" Carson, "when I was a young person we had many opportunities and places to go. We had no TV. We had, of course, no computers, 2 radio stations, 2 papers, 2 theatres, a bowling alley, a roller rink and a teen center open all the time, dances at the Eagles and Elks every weekend, wished we had a swimming pool. I wish we could do more for teens in this community. Youth are our most valuable asset." Many comments were made about the value of mentoring, or adults volunteering in the schools, supporting youth organizations such as Boys and Girls Club (who is looking for an affordable place); Ketchikan Youth Initiatives (KYI); PATCHWorks; making a place for our youth to go, to have something constructive to do. Joann Flora, director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, quoted research from her organization documenting the successful results of young people who have had adult mentors and reminded all that her organization matches kids ages 6 to 17, also high schoolers with elementary students. Some urged teacher, school officials, judges, probation officers to back up parents who are trying to discipline kids and asked if a dress code would help; also raising the mandatory school attendance age to 18 to reduce early dropouts (we currently have a 33% drop out rate.) Several speakers rose to speak about the challenges they had faced and overcome during their lives offering to speak with and encourage our youth. KYI commented about their newest endeavors to redevelop the old water warehouse into a Youth Community Center and support the construction of a covered skatepark by the Borough.

The next message was loud and clear. What are we doing to prevent drugs coming into and being sold and consumed in our community? What is the deal if parents or youth can identify the dealers but nothing is happening to them? Many supported trained drug dogs, more drug cops, better use of CrimeStoppers, and support to the police when you observe, are suspicious about or hear of something. Comments were made about overprescribing drugs, especially as a "fix" for anxiety and depression-this results in waves of impact with parents so out of it they cannot care for their children. Several spoke up calling for the justice system to respond, not just to protect our youth but all citizens. Zig Ziegler, who assisted the facilitator by organizing the note cards submitted from the participants, said, "the police are overwhelmed and working as hard as they can. If you have a child who is an abuser, let the cops and the school know. If someone is hurting or a potential suicide victim, help them. It is OK to stick your neck out if you feel worried about their safety. It takes a community to raise a child."

There is now a website: posting suicide prevention tools. The Schools need help in getting parental permission to provide our students with a suicide risk assessment known as S.O.S. The Alaska careline: 1-877-266-TALK should be stenciled and posted throughout our town. (The Lions Club has already agreed to stencil the school bus shelters.)

A passionate appeal came from Margaret Cloud to not just talk and meet about, but do something about helping people who feel hopeless and in despair. Others concurred that we could make Ketchikan a much more attractive, friendly and supportive place to livenot "a quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem."

A diverse crowd included elected officials of the Borough, the City, the School Board, the KIC Tribal Council, the City of Saxman, police, state troopers, religious organizations, government officials, social service agencies, youth, young adults, seniors, healthcare, the media, businessmen and women, families. The community said they want to hear back from their town leaders with their suggestions and solutions. Questions about the status of Gateway Center for Human Services rose early in the conversation. The city and the state are in negotiations with Akeela, an Anchorage organization, to take over the program management to be in place by April 1st. Patrons were assured that Gateway's systems have been completely overhauled and there will no longer be the delays experienced previously. KIC Health Clinic is now offering medicare dental services on Wednesday to everyone who lives here; their schedule is booked weeks in advance.

Ed Zastrow cautioned us not to forget about the seniors and their safety. He suggested we work on a Neighborhood Watch program for Ketchikan that could be of great service to the police and others who work to serve us. Many represented religious organizations and offered their resources for youth and care groups. Karen Eakes, the chair of the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition, explained there are seven task forces working currently and there is a meeting planned for March to report out on their accomplishments and encourage involvement.

We are counting on this being just the first step. 153 persons submitted notes cards, 60 volunteered their services providing contact information. The next event may be a candlelight vigil. Thank you to Zig Ziegler, Cathy LeCompte, Diana Chaudhary, Pat Chapman, Diana Maioriello, Cathy Cooley, Zach Frazier and Ford Wheaton (KYI Vista Volunteers), Raven's Brew Coffee, Kayhi Culinary Arts Class, Northern Sales Co, UAS Ketchikan and Ketchikan Youth Initiatives for their donations and all the others who helped along the way.


On the Web:

To keep informed, to volunteer or to read the 12 page transcription of the participant feedback, check out:

FACEBOOK "ktn enough"
FORUM www.ketchikanconversation/


Bobbie McCreary is the Administrator Ketchikan Youth Initiatives


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