'The way for tomorrow'

Youth leadership among issues discussed at final forum

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Health care, affordable housing and the civic involvement of youths are issues affecting the Yampa Valley's future, residents agreed Friday.

People from across the valley assembled for a forum hosted by Yampa Valley Partners. Friday's forum was the third in a series called "Living in a Community of Choice." Residents from Rangely, Craig, Hayden, Meeker and Steamboat Springs participated in the forum, which focused on managing change.

During most of the forum, participants split into groups, and each group focused on one issue facing the valley. One group, which included area high school students, discussed young adults' involvement as community leaders.

"There's a lot of things missing from this community," said Jonathan Godes of the Boys & Girls Club of Craig.

Sue Conroy, who represented Girl Scouts, said young people need to have a role in which they don't just listen but they also have a vote.

"We don't know it all as elders," she said. "How can you be a part of this community, with a voice, with a vote?"

Godes agreed that young people could take part in making community decisions.

"I, personally, think you can be a leader, whatever you are and wherever you are," Godes said.

Don Johnson of Hayden said that young peoples' opinions are important.

"Your ideas are setting the way for tomorrow, for the future of the community," Johnson said.

Godes said no one invited him to participate in government meetings when he was young. Perhaps that type of situation prevents students from attending and being engaged in the meetings, he said.

Kacie Owens, a student at Moffat County High School, said adults sometimes use words that are hard to understand, and that makes it difficult to participate.

"It sounds like it needs to be planned by you and implemented by you to be fun," Conroy said.

The group came up with a plan to bring young people together. They agreed to start the formation of a youth council, which would include students from different communities in the valley.

The other groups and their ideas for managing change included:

n Heritage and land use: Participants in this group wanted to showcase the area's heritage and articulate the heart and soul of the valley. Residents and visitors could be included in this, they said. One idea the group had was to hold "table" meetings in each community in which residents and visitors could discuss heritage and other issues. The group also wanted to market communities' heritage. For example, they said, they wanted people to know that historical preservation is about people, not just buildings.

n Creative options and shifting economy: This group wanted to promote a sense of community. They said neighborhoods should set up Web sites to build communication.

n Affordable housing: This group suggested the formation of a consortium between Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties. They wanted to invite major employers in the counties so partnerships could be developed.

n Health care: Certain factors create isolation from health care, the group said. These factors include transportation, technology access, lack of health insurance and language. The group wanted schools to help collect data valleywide relevant to these problems.

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