The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 11, 2013

Community gathers to talk about youth issues



Sifers also reported only 70 percent of youth felt they had control over their life. To the table of sophomores, that wasn’t at all a shock.

“Well, do you feel like you have control over your life?” asked Tess Burkhartzmeyer.

“No, that’s why I actually thought (the percentage) was pretty high,” said Joshua Quittem.

About 65 percent of youth also said they have feelings of inadequacy. However, the education-related questions all had highly positive results, Sifers said. The majority of students who responded are not having big problems in school, and school doesn’t stress them out — which perhaps could aid in eliminating some of those inadequacy issues.

“We know that support from teachers can be a wonderful way to combat feelings of inadequacy in youth,” Sifers said.

Nancy Fitzsimons, a social work professor, presented results of adult surveys on the well-being of children and youth in the Mankato area. One trend was that there is a divide in the community of the “have and have nots,” and that divide is negatively impacting youth.

Also, adults reported a lack of free time and free play for kids, with too much emphasis on structured activities. Overall in the community, there isn’t enough for kids to do. And the majority of adults said the community, overall, may believe that children and youth are “faring better than they actually are,” Fitzsimons said.

In the audience, Nancy Zallek drew a correlation between the “haves and have nots” with the problem of children being “over-structured.” Children in families who are financially stable have the opportunity to put their children in numerous activities and sports, and families who are in need don’t have that option.

The evening’s other presentations included a panel of youth which offered input on what they heard over the course of the summit and where improvements are needed in the community.

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