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Cali Owings, Published August 06 2013

Interactive map aims to boost F-M youth participation in activities

FARGO – A new interactive map aims to help young people in the Fargo-Moorhead area learn what local services and projects are available for them.

A group of 20 students, ages 12-19, worked with the Venture Youth Alliance this summer to create the map. They unveiled their product – the FM Youth Compass – on Tuesday at the Dakota Medical Foundation.

Program organizers hope to get more area youths involved in activities because research shows that kids who participate in activities outside of school achieve more.

Forty-two percent of young people in the Fargo-Moorhead area do not participate in any sort of youth development activities, the 2010 Fargo-Moorhead Youth Development Survey shows.

“We really want youth to be more engaged,” said Courtney Quist, a Concordia College senior who interns with the program. “They just don’t know what’s out there.”

The map divides programs by categories such as education, entertainment and fitness. It shows users how close those programs are to their home or school, parks, public transportation and bike routes.

The map is also a tool to help area providers identify programming needs for youths, said Karen Olson, Venture Youth Alliance director.

By looking at the map and eventually layering it with other data about the neighborhoods where kids live, providers can collaborate to bring programs to high-need areas.

“It’s really a community tool for planning,” Olson said. “We look at this as an opportunity.”

When groups look to bring new programs for youths to the area, Olson said it’s important to give the more than 46,000 young people here an “authentic voice at the table.”

Involvement opportunity

The Venture Youth Alliance program also provides an involvement opportunity for area youths. Alliance participants earned $8 an hour to develop the map and treated the program like a summer job.

Part of their curriculum was not only working on the map project, but developing skills such as blogging and professional emailing to help prepare them for adult life.

During the process of creating the map, participants researched programs for young people their age in the area that they hadn’t heard about before.

“These kids are not just ambassadors for the map, but for the whole Fargo-Moorhead area,” Quist said.

The group received a grant from YouthPrise to continue working on the map this fall, Olson said.

Online: You can explore the map online at http://www.ventureyouthalliance.com/map.html

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599