Carson City teenagers want improved parks, better after school programs, more access to scholarship opportunities and a completed bike path. But most of all, they seem to want the opportunity to work with adults to improve communication.
About 40 youth, primarily high school students, gathered at Carson High School on Saturday afternoon with 4-H officials, Mayor Ray Masayko, District 40 Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell and others for the first Conversation on Youth Development for the 21st Century.
Sponsored by 4-H, the event is part of a nationwide effort aimed at improving the quality of life and empowering America's youth.
"I thought it would be interesting, so I decided to try to help out," said Carson High sophomore Kayla Garcia.
She sat with friends at a cafeteria-style table in the halls of Carson High. She said teens need a quality place to go outside of school events and friends.
Friend Sarah Ragsdale said she'd like to see more scholarship programs and a community bulletin board that would let everyone know what was going on. More friends gathered and for this small group of six girls, it seems effective communication is the key.
"What's great about an event like this is that we're getting youth input and asking them where they want to go," said Marlana Ramirez, 4-H Youth Program Coordinator. "This is about action. It's brainstorming that will result in a positive direction for youth in Carson City."
Kids and adults across the country were asked the same question: What are the most important actions we can take to create the future we want for youth in our community within the next 3 to 5 years?
"The question had to be open, so it means something different to everyone. We want them to be able to express themselves and this question forces them to narrow the issues down to their priorities," said 4-H Youth Program Coordinator Jill Tingey.
This event, along with a series of county "conversations" throughout the state, will culminate in a state conversation on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus on Saturday. Following that, nine youth and adult delegates from Nevada will be selected to attend the national conversation in Washington, D.C., Feb. 28.
The best ideas from these conversations will be used as a planning tool for local youth programming efforts and the National 4-H Council will formulate youth development recommendations that make a positive difference. Those recommendations will be submitted to the President, leaders of Congress and cabinet secretaries in April.
Tom Baker, local chairman of the advisory board for 4-H said the organization is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
"We thought this would be the best way to give something back and lay the foundation for a better quality of life," he said.
Baker is now capital city coordinator and rural liaison for the U.S. Forest Service, but he also served as U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan's rural counties' director for 12 years.
"I've seen determined individuals change state policies and federal law, mostly for the better," he said. "People don't know how much they can accomplish. The best thing about Cooperative Extension is that is works with youth in the community, and shows them how effective they can be."
Tingey said programs in Carson City reach more than 2,000 youth in Carson City and an estimated 500,000 statewide. Congress appropriated $5 million for this effort, but funds were cut short following the Sept. 11 tragedy.
"Traveling expenses were to be paid for each of the nine delegates attending, but now we're looking for funding," she said.
Anyone interested in contributing can call her at 887-2252.