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Andi Murphy, Published August 01 2010

Program works to better metro

From a study called the Lodestone Project, an idea to create an Intergenerational Committee on Youth (ICY) sprouted to target the youth of the metro area.

The purpose of the committee is to work with adults to make the city sustainable, retainable and better. An ICY taskforce will meet throughout the summer, create the committee and launch it in the fall.

Committee members will be young adult professionals and leaders and middle school, high school and college students, Melissa Sobolik, ICY volunteer and co-writer of the Lodestone Project, said in an

e-mail.

“They (ICY) will meet from October to April and tackle an issue of their choice – meeting regularly and ending with a presentation or recommendation to the community and local government officials,” Sobolik said. “Allow them a voice and to be a change agent in their hometown.”

Every year, ICY will tackle a new issue that they deem important and set their own goals, she said.

Most youth commissions are made up of adults who talk about youths. ICY will be unique in that it is made of equal parts adults and youths, Sobolik said.

“The plan is to launch this (ICY) as sort of a pilot project, then become a way for youth ideas to get to where the decisions are being made,” said Nate Bailly, Fargo community development planner and ICY volunteer.

One of the goals of ICY is to have the youth come back to Fargo-Moorhead to live with their future families or to move back after they had moved away to see the world, Bailly said.

“It’s kind of a combination of showing that kids’ opinions are valued and retaining people in the area,” Bailly said. “It’s cool if we can get all these young kids to come back to the community with their families.”

Bailly wants young people to look back at Fargo-Moorhead and feel like they were valued, no matter how young they are.

“I joined ICY because I think it’s important for adults to work with youth,” said Taylor Gess, 17, soon-to-be senior at Fargo South High School and ICY taskforce member. “It’s really neat to see people view change.”

Young people can bring a different viewpoint to how things in the metro area are run and how decisions are made. For example: middle school kids, who don’t have cars or are not able to do a lot of things adults can, have a different perspective on the city. Young people need to feel important, Gess said.

“There’s room for more youth input on the leadership levels,” Gess said.

About 29 percent of youths in Fargo-Moorhead say adults are serving as positive role models, only 25 percent say adults value youths, and most don’t feel empowered to contribute to the city in a meaningful way, according to a 2007 survey by the Metro Youth Partnership.

Those facts come from the Lodestone Project, a study that lists ways the city can become sustainable and magnetic – much the same way an ordinary lodestone becomes magnetic only when struck by lightening, Jessica Thomasson, a co-writer of the project, said.

“With the right circumstances, it (Fargo-Moorhead) can become a great area,” Thomasson said. “If you value young people when they’re in school, you value community and a sense of place.”

Since the survey found that a lot of young people do not feel valued and empowered, Thomasson thought it would be important to tie them into a few suggestions to making Fargo-Moorhead sustainable.

The Lodestone Project suggests ICY harness young people’s new views and ideas and allow them to think limitlessly, she said.

Thomasson said the idea for ICY came from looking at the leadership skills and the power of youth found in two projects. For the 2007 Fill the Dome project, high school students filled the Fargodome floor with food to donate to the hungry, and 140 students gathered for the Youth Summit in 2008 to secure ways to address the issue of hunger.

Currently, a taskforce of a few volunteers are meeting to formalize ICY and getting ready for their first tasks, which are to find an issue to address and change.

“I’m happy to see that there’s a group of people that are taking it to the next level,” Thomasson said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Andi Murphy at (701) 235-7311