Forum asks teens how Juneau can help its youth

Posted: Tuesday, December 04, 2001

What would happen if every adult in Juneau went back to school for a day to experience what students face on a daily basis?

Doing so could help improve the lives of Juneau's youth, according to some participants at a forum discussing ways the community can better assist its youth.

The forum Monday at Juneau-Douglas High School was part of the "Centennial Conversations" program, a nationwide effort organized by 4-H in honor of its 100th birthday next year.

The event drew about two dozen teen-agers and about 30 adults, who split into small groups to brainstorm ideas.

The idea receiving the most votes from the combined participants was providing positive and healthy - though still entertaining - places for youths to go in Juneau, such as a sports center or ice rink, which would be open extended hours.

The other four top ideas were creating a homeless shelter for youth, providing free or reduced-cost bus fare for students, offering a full hot-lunch and breakfast program at schools, and matching students with volunteer mentors from an early age.

City Recreation Superintendent Cristi Herren said she appreciated hearing new perspectives, including students' views supporting a new recreation center.

"We've heard for years from surveys that a recreation center is important," she said. "It was really nice to hear from youths ... that it is important to them as well."

JDHS sophomore Nicole Wilson said she was interested in seeing more counselors - and more different types of counselors - at school to improve student access to their services and provide more programs in areas such as health and diversity issues.

Other ideas offered by the audience included expanding art and music programs in the schools and having more voting student representatives on youth-related groups and organizations.

The final results from Monday's forum will be compiled and forwarded to groups including the Juneau Assembly, the Mayor's Task Force on Youth and community service clubs. The ideas also will be forwarded to state and national 4-H forums.

State 4-H program assistant Kristine Harder said she was pleased with the diverse turnout, which included school administrators, Juneau School Board members, government officials and representatives of area youth groups.

"It was a success for us in that it was a good cross-section of the community," she said.

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