The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 9, 2013

Sports facilities not a top youth need


The conversations started with youth need to continue. Otherwise, we as a community may end up investing in initiatives for our kids that we as adults want, with the best of intentions, but not necessarily what our kids want or need.

The second question posed asks whether funding a market study for a sports complex, in particular with funds from the counties, should be a priority. Are all of our children, youth and their families thriving? The answer to that question is a resounding — no. In February I unveiled a report on the well-being of children and youth in Mankato/North Mankato. One part of the report used secondary data sources to examine the economic, educational, social-emotional, and health indicators of children and youth well-being.

In some areas the trends are positive, in others cause for concern. The other section of the report presents the results of interviews with 66 area adults, many in leadership positions, from family and youth-serving, business, K-12 education, higher education, health care, faith, media, arts, and the government sectors.

One predominant theme expressed by a majority of people interviewed was that the “poor economy appeared to have taken a significant toll on many children, youth, and their families and is contributing to the greater divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘haves not’ in our community.” It is impossible to imagine that over the last several years county human services and public health have not encountered significant challenges in responding to the increased needs, let alone engaged in anything remotely close to youth and family outreach and primary prevention.

The Mankato/ North Mankato community has been the recipient of America’s Promise Alliance’s 100 Best Communities for Young People four times. Our community was selected each time, not because we are the literal “best.” Rather, because we have strived to fulfill the five promises to ALL children and youth in our community — caring adults, safe places, a healthy start and healthy development, effective education, and opportunities to help others.

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