The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 11, 2013

Community gathers to talk about youth issues

MANKATO — Everyone who attended the first Community Summit on Youth Monday night had a voice.

Research, studies and opinions on Greater Mankato youth culture, development and need were presented by various community leaders at the Verizon Wireless Center. But then the parents, teens and community members in the audience were given the opportunity to converse and respond to what they heard.

And that’s exactly what Youth Voice intended — to begin an open dialogue about youth and get us all thinking about what already works and where improvements are needed when it comes to young people. The mission of Youth Voice, which took the place of Mankato Area Healthy Youth, is to make Greater Mankato “the very best place for youth to grow up and live,” said Bonnie Stanton, community organizer of the YWCA.

“I think it’s a night of celebration for everybody who is working so hard for youth in our community,” said Laura Bowman, president of the Greater Mankato United Way.

“We can’t sit back and let youth take the initiative to always get involved because they don’t always have the courage,” Bowman said. “... And youth in the audience, you can’t always sit back and wait for the adults to figure it out because sometimes we don’t always have the answers.”

Two Minnesota State University professors presented results of surveys of adults in the community and youth regarding various areas of wellness.

Sara Sifers, MSU psychology professor, presented youth responses on “How Youth Thrive Despite All Odds.” Some of the results were surprising for audience members. For example, only half of kids surveyed reported having a good relationship with their fathers.

“The father thing was weird,” said James Fultz, an MSU sophomore at a table of five other sophomores who agreed the statistic was surprising.

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