.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Youth lead the way

-A A +A
By Katy Korkos

The purpose of the Leadership Los Alamos program is to inspire people to become involved in their community, and Friday’s session on the topic of youth proved to be the most inspiring session to date. In a reversal of the traditional pattern where the adults impart wisdom to the young, the youth were the teachers Friday and the adults in the class listened and learned.Linda Daly chaired Friday’s session, which she described as “a 360-degree view of what it’s like to be a teen in Los Alamos.”Several members of Juntos, which stands for “Joining and Understanding Now, Teens Overcome Separation,” showed the adults just how committed teens are to overcoming stereotypes and achieving social justice. The young people from Española High School, Los Alamos High School and Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) first came together at the end of May 2007.“I want to change the world and I’ve got to start somewhere,” one Española teen said.Her sentiments were echoed by a classmate, who said that she had joined Juntos to help stop racism and to help the two communities come together.Lori Heimdahl-Gibson was instrumental in setting up the Juntos program, and she in turn was inspired by her Leadership Los Alamos experience to found Juntos. She had heard from Española youth that they were uncomfortable visiting Los Alamos because they felt they were being watched, and from Los Alamos youth that they were afraid of going to the valley because they perceived it as a violent and drug-ridden place.Heimdahl-Gibson said she knew if youth worked together toward a common goal, they would overcome their fears. Maurice de Segovia, assistant director of recruitment for NNMC, said, “This is an opportunity for both sides to learn the essence of multiculturalism and diversity. In order to make change, they have to grasp the injustices of the past and acknowledge the need for social justice. With that knowledge, how can they not work for change?”Juntos receives funding from the Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, the Northern New Mexico United Way, Northern New Mexico College and Protective Technologies Los Alamos, and further support from the YMCA, UNM-Los Alamos, the Española and Los Alamos Public Schools, the Los Alamos Monitor, the Rio Grande Sun, and Northern New Mexico Enlace (Engaging Latino Communities for Education)/Gear-up (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs).Scott Weiss, partner in the Cliffs at White Rock development on the A-19 parcel and a member of the 2008 Leadership class, responded to the Juntos presentation by standing up to pledge $250 to support the program.A second youth panel of seven Los Alamos high-school seniors educated the group on keeping the lines of communication between adults and teens open. Honesty and openness from the adults was the first requirement for good communication recommended by the teens.“Don’t try to be somebody you’re not, and don’t talk down to us,” one teen said. “We’re not listening to the announcements at school or reading the paper; we’re on Facebook, and we’re texting.”Municipal Court Judge Alan Kirk, chair of Los Alamos’ Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, was the first speaker on Friday. Kirk grew up in Los Alamos, coaches both school and community sports, has kids of his own, and has seen the difficulties kids face in his role as judge.Kirk presented statistics that showed that 7,000 young people drop out of school each day in the United States. Kirk asked the class to consider why the United States has the largest jail population in the world, and what the role of the community might be in supporting youth programs.“Funding for kids programs has not increased in this country since 1960,” Kirk said. He chronicled the four-year development of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, saying that it was the only JJAB in the state that has teenagers serving on the board. Successes of the board include the establishment of Teen Court and speeding up the process for families whose kids have had trouble. “The biggest success of the board is collaborating, bringing people together,” Kirk said.The Leadership class of 2008 is two-thirds of the way through its program, which has featured all-day seminars on the environment, education and local government and regional issues. With four sessions under their belts, class members have already begun to volunteer for county boards, take on additional roles as coaches and Scout leaders, make connections with other future leaders and start to define how they might become involved in the community. Los Alamos National Bank and Los Alamos County sponsor the program.