RE: Community's youth
By Tyrell Rettke
March 09, 2008
This letter is in response to Eileen Small's letter recently
(3/6 I believe) posted here on Sitnews. I have seen and heard
the same frustration that she is presenting from many other people,
as well as felt it myself. The old mantras that we like to throw
out there (but which I will refrain from using) are tired and
really don't help in these cases. What is needed is action.
This is why, 3 years ago, I helped form Ketchikan Youth Initiatives
(KYI). Our mission has always been to empower people, specifically
younger people. We try to focus on things that are not being
done, such as our first project, creating the paintball field
at mile 4 Revilla Road. We have held community events for various
things, from grieving over a lost teen life, to an activities
expo this past December. We are currently working on projects
that will interest, or at least revitalize Ms. Small's opinion
of our town and people.
KYI is currently undertaking a large project which is the redevelopment
of the old Water Warehouse. We have made great headway on this
project, and are currently involved in the planning and funding
phases. There is a lot of remodeling and other work to be done.
You will be proud to know that several key elements are coming
together to help make this project feasible.
First and foremost are the young people that have come together
and said, to us and to themselves, that this is what we want
(an activities center that is open and whose options of activities
are broad and not necessarily sports based a safe place to hang
out). They have said they are willing to work on this project,
and have been involved in the designing, and the planning. They
have come to us, KYI, to look for guidance and oversight, which
we are wholeheartedly embracing. These are young people that
are making a difference, instead of complaining.
Secondly, there is a push on many levels, the state Department
of Labor, the Governor, the various trades industry (carpentry,
welders, etc) to increase the state's level of workers in high
growth industry jobs. The most effective way to do that is to
begin training younger people to enter these trades, and provide
those who are interested in these trades a way to receive training.
For this reason, KYI has undertaken cooperative projects with
the Job Center (Youth to Work Program), the Chamber of Commerce,
and has been involved in supporting the upcoming Construction
Academy and other projects of this nature. We have seen the
need for this, found those who also recognize the need, and have
worked to pull them together and share ideas. It has been with
great success, with a promise of more success to follow.
Thirdly, is the great response each of these projects we have
undertaken has received from the community at large. While we
were creating the paintball field, we received so much aid from
local contractors, businesses and families, it would surely astound
you. We had donations from practically every contractor on the
island. We had donations of equipment rentals and operation,
over 200 yards of D1 gravel, a trailer (that is undergoing ongoing
renovation) to get out of the rain, many items that we have used
as bunkers and barricades, as well as cash donations and other
services. The list was worth over 50,000 dollars of in-kind
donations. This community has shown that it does care about
our youth, more than most communities on a per capita level I
would venture to guess. The Water Warehouse project undertaking
is no different. We have had an outpouring of support for this
project, and more is coming each day. We have people lined up
to oversee the renovation phases, we have had services donated,
we have created a dedicated steering committee to help direct
the planning and organization as well as funding strategies,
and we have had the most important support, youth leaders telling
us what they want. Then really listening to us about the reality
of how they can get it, and what it will take on their part to
develop a youth-led, adult-mentored facility. I am proud to say
that they have not backed down or blanched at the tasks and steps
that we have described to them.
We have also found national support for this project, in funding
and other services and grants, to make this project as little
of a local burden as possible, other than in kind donations (like
a little elbow grease).
Lastly and most importantly are our City's elected officials.
I think we have given them too little credit for a truly thankless
job. Recently we asked for time to plan out this project (120
days) because there was a push to demolish the building or sell
it. They granted us these 120 days without dissent. This says
to us, and to the community, that they see the need for a project
like this and are willing to hear proposals that would utilize
this building in a way that will not make them money. It says
that they care enough about the youth to trust them with 4 months
of time to really look at a way to turn this building into a
center for young people to do things that make them happy, instead
of bored. The city council has had to make some very difficult
decisions regarding funding, and all sorts of things that affect
the youth of this community. It is easy for us to stand back
and bash these decisions, but it's a much different story to
be in the budgeting sessions and have to decide between funding
the roads or the schools, raising the water rates or inadvertently
forcing the school to cut a program. The Borough Assembly faces
these same difficult issues. I for one know that while I may
not like the final outcome, or agree with all the decisions,
I do know that the job they do, they do for basically free (the
per diem is nothing that will make you rich). They do it not
for power but because they see that they have the knowledge and
willingness to make these tough choices, to try and make our
community a better place to live.
We must be cautious when attacking these officials, because we
don't always know the story behind every vote. A little open
discussion and constructive criticism is fine and in fact productive,
but to openly declare things is closed minded and non productive.
I hope this letter has helped to open some eyes, and that anyone
who is interested in really making a change for the better, instead
of repeating the same old mantras, will contact us at KYI (email@example.com)
to join in our efforts to bring forward more drug free activities
for young people to this town, and to empower the youth of this
community. The youth of today are obviously going to be in positions
of power in later years, so providing them with tools and making
them responsible for something now is important that they might
take ownership of this town and return here or stay here to live
Thank you for your time in reading this letter, and please note
that this is in no way an attack on Ms. Small, simply a set of
observations and opinions, and that I fully understand your frustrations.
About: "President of Ketchikan
Youth Initiatives, a local non profit dedicated to providing
activities and opertunities for youth and young adults. Lived
in Ketchikan for nearly 18 years now."
Received March 09, 2008 - Published
March 09, 2008
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