SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


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 ( 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 and prosper.

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.

Tyrell Rettke
Ketchikan, AK

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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