The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 7, 2013

Youth summit feedback reveals need for mentors at top priority

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story listed incorrect event information. The second youth summit meeting is 5-8 p.m. Monday, March 11, at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 150 Stadium Court, Mankato.

The feedback from the first Community Summit on Youth is compiled, as is a long list of answers to the question: What do you feel are the top needs of youth in the community?

And the top five answers to that question will be presented by youth, ranging in age from early teens to early 20s, at the second youth summit Monday, said Bonnie Stanton, community organizer of the YWCA and Youth Voice.

About 300 people attended the first summit, and that pool included youth, business leaders, parents, educators and community members — all of whom provided invaluable ideas and feedback on the needs of youth in Greater Mankato, she said.

The No. 1 answer regarding what youth need was mentors, Stanton said, including youth-to-youth as well as adult-to-youth role models.

Second was the need for a youth center where they can gather, socialize, do homework and engage in recreation.

Third was the need for more jobs open to youth in the community so they can earn money and build work skills.

 Fourth was the need for continued community conversations about the needs of youth.

Fifth was the need for transportation so youth can easily get around the area to recreation, jobs and other activities.

Further findings from Youth Voice sessions conducted with young people during the last six months will be provided at the summit as well, including the top 10 things in a variety of categories that youth have said they need.

The keynote speaker will be Carl DeLine, who does consulting, coaching and youth development work across the U.S. and Canada.

“We’ve started to look at the youth/community needs, and now we want to put together a plan and really move forward,” said Stanton, who said she envisions several more summits to continue the process. “Now it’s time to kind of roll up our sleeves and sit down at the table and make some of these things happen.”

Mankato Area Healthy Youth was an organization in the Mankato area for about 15 years that was dedicated to the same efforts as Youth Voice. Due to the economic decline, many agencies were no longer able to support MAHY and the organization dissipated, Stanton said.

“Youth Voice rose up to take the place of Mankato Area Healthy Youth,” Stanton said.

The organization received $75,000 in funding for its first year from the Otto Bremer Foundation and $125,000 for each of two subsequent years.

“Our big goal was to make Greater Mankato the very best place for youth to grow up and live,” Stanton said. “With that goal in place, we put together the Youth Voice project.”