Shining a light on the teen mind

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Class gets some insight from youth organizations

By Kirsten Laskey

Deciphering what goes on in the teenage mind is sometimes harder to crack than Egyptian hieroglyphics.  Adults sometimes wonder what makes a teen tick and exactly what goes on in those heads. Luckily, a bit of insight was given at the Leadership Los Alamos session Friday.

The class met in the Best Western Hilltop House Hotel to get a clearer understanding on youth. To get the scoop, LLA went straight to the source.

Members of JUNTOS, Youth Mobilizers, Los Alamos Youth Leadership and Young Leaders made an appearance to talk about their work. In addition to the young people’s presentations, representatives from Big Brothers, Big Sisters and LA Trails talked about what youth are doing in the community.

The class learned that youth in this town are busy. Not only are their schedules filled, but also they are a tremendous asset to the community. When adults and young people join together, there does not seem to be a limit to what they can accomplish. All that is needed is a little bit of intuition and an idea.

For instance, Lori Heimdahl Gibson came up with JUNTOS (Joining and Understanding Now, Teens Overcome Separation) while participating in Leadership Los Alamos.

She explained she heard horror stories about Española and Los Alamos and wanted to bring these two communities together.

As a result, JUNTOS was founded in 2007. The organization focuses on bringing youth together in Los Alamos, Española and Pojoaque. The youth strive to overcome separation that exists between the communities.

JUNTOS Coordinator Jennifer Bartram said young people have made great progress in this objective. In fact, Gibson and Bartram learned they could just sit back and watch the youth take the lead.

“If we just stop and hush … not only do they pick up the ball but (they) run with it … I think you’ll be amazed at what they have done,” Bartram said.

Heimdahl Gibson agreed, “The youth are taking on the big issues.”

The youth in LA Trails are also making an impact in the community.

Sierra Argo of LA Trails said the youth who are involved in trail maintenance work not only affect the young people but also the community. “(It) really does connect you in a different way,” she said.

 Argo added that these young people also set an example for their peers and family.

“They can make a difference in the community (and) can take an active role,” she said.

Members of Youth Mobilizers, a group run through the Family YMCA, have certainly brought in results.

When they conducted a survey on high school dropouts and found out that some students who left the school felt alienated, the Mobilizers created Senior Sidekicks, a club that pairs freshmen and seniors together.

It’s an opportunity for upperclassmen to reach out to high school newcomers and it’s a chance for freshmen to have a friend in their new environment.

Pairing older and younger generations has packed a punch in other organizations, too.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters pairs an adult with a young person to hopefully create a bond.

In a promotional video, it proved just how powerful these bonds are. Many pairings have lasted well through the younger person’s childhood and into their adulthood.