Volunteers are gathering information from interviews with local students about what they want

The Children/Youth Summit has been quite active since its first meeting last January. In fact, there's already been one change and that's the name.

While "children" works well with elementary students, older kids, those in middle and high schools, don't like to be defined as children. Those heading into or already in adolescence prefer to be called "youth." So there has been a name change and it's now called the Canby Children/Youth Summit.

The group is working right along the timeline organizers predicted in January. They are gathering information from students at Canby High, Baker Prairie Middle School, Ninety-One School and local elementary schools using the same four questions they asked the adults at the first summit meeting.

"We are using March to finish data collection," said Tony Crawford, president of the Canby Kiwanis organization and one of the founders of the Summit. "We're using March to finish data collection by Spring Break. We want to be ready to start data analysis on April 1."

Involved in the data collection are Mike Zagyva, Marilyn Wood and Luana Hill, key people gathering data, said Crawford.

They are asking the young people the same questions they asked the adults at the first meeting: what are Canby's strengths; what seems to be missing; improvements; and questions that you ask yourself.

Once the group has analyzed the data they plan to reconvene the adults from the first session to meet sometime in the first half of May. They will look over the released data and determine where to go from there.

The idea is to find out if there's a need that isn't being addressed and determine what strategies are needed to fix a weak area, or one that needs to be focused on because it hasn't been addressed, Crawford told the Herald. They want to work out how to tackle such issues while better serving community resources.

Between eight and 10 groups of leadership students from Baker Prairie Middle School participated in a question and answer program with adults from the Summit, as well as teachers.

CAROL ROSEN - A group of youth respond to questions from teacher Amanda Graber during a recent youth summit information-gathering event.

Interestingly, Zagyva noted that many students from the middle and high schools are seeking a place to hang out after school as well as information about mental health services.

Working with the kids is gaining momentum, Zagyva said. At another table, Hill was asking her group of six students for questions they thought the survey lacked. Several of them suggested questions that she wrote down to add to the Summit's list.

The key to all of this appears to be that these upper grade students are sharp and ready to come out with more than just answers.

Six questioners were available for the 25 minute question and answer period. Crawford joined Hill, Wood, Zagyva, Angela Baker and Laura Sullivan, along with teachers Amanda Graber and Heather Anderson, to question and take down the students' responses.

Zagyva noted that the survey is definitely working with high school and middle school students. Elementary students certainly know what they think they need but it is harder for them. Asked if the elementary students were finding it hard to explain what they need, Crawford said that wasn't the case.

"They all keep going back to having a place to hang out with their friends," he said, "like a youth center, which Canby doesn't have."

Most middle and high school students are seeking two ideas, almost to a student, Zagyva said.

First they like the library's teen room with its computers, but they would like to see tutors there to help with homework when they get stuck.

Their second response is that "school starts way too early," they've told Zagyva. "Oregon City schools start an hour later than Canby. That would allow us more sleep," he quoted.

Hill also has worked with students from the elementary and middle schools.

Responses from elementary students included needs all over the map, noted Hill.

"You have to word questions carefully," she said, "because sometimes they will repeat what you ask them."

A number of elementary students want to see a dog park, she added. They want a place to go with their dog to play together, she said.

"They are looking for casual activities and pick-up games. Maybe it's good the city is talking about a dog park and the fields behind Ackerman School," she told the Herald.

"But I've found they don't know about transportation, like the CAT buses or Dial-a-Ride. Plans for the dog park is too far away from some of them. Maybe we also need to establish a community resource [for getting around the city]."

Hill also noted that some of the children say they feel safe here and that Canby feels safe to their families.

In other areas they weren't allowed to walk home from school, but here in Canby they can.

She also noted something that's missing from when her children were in school in Canby.

"There used to be after-school programs that offered snacks and activities," Hill told the Herald. "Those aren't available anymore," possibly because of money. If all the school's offered after school study halls or Boys and Girls Clubs that would work," she said.

Carol Rosen
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