“Youth-led action in creating positive change.”
That was the mission statement created by members of Youth Crew, a local nonprofit group that celebrated its second year of existence on Monday. Youths from throughout Barton County gathered for a meal, award presentations and prizes.
Tyler Morton, prevention advocate for Juvenile Services and program coordinator for Youth Crew, let the youth know they are “making waves in the community.” They are taking a stand against tobacco use and other risky behavior through community education and awareness while mobilizing community projects.
“What started off as 12 youth seeking to make change has now grown to a force of nearly 40 members working month in and month out on prevention efforts,” Morton said. “The numbers continue to grow and the influence grows right along with it.”
From 2021 through 2022, “just north of 70 youth attended at least one Youth Crew meeting,” Morton said. “Now in June 2023, six months into the year, that number already sits at 60 youth that have attended at least one meeting this year. We have grown from meeting in one town, here in Great Bend, to having consistent monthly meetings in three communities. Now we meet in Great Bend, Hoisington and Ellinwood each and every month and we have hopes and aspirations of expanding our reach even more.”
The purpose of Monday’s meeting was two-fold as Youth Crew sponsors reflected on its past and then focused on what’s to come. A slide-show recapped some of the Youth Crew events from the past two years, from clean-up projects to fun scavenger hunts.
Youth Crew is a task force of the Central Kansas Partnership. This nonprofit group has some grant funding but Monday’s program, including the meal and about $1,000 worth of prizes to give away, would not have been possible without the support of sponsors, Morton said.
Marissa Woodmansee, director of Juvenile Services for the 20th Judicial District, said Youth Crew members are taking an active role in prevention, which can stop the escalation in the court system that can progress to intervention, supervised probation and incarceration. “My heart is in prevention,” she said. If prevention can stop behavior from escalating at any point in the justice system, “our job is done.”
The Youth Crew is taking an active role in that, she said.
“This has to be youth-led. That makes a bigger statement and impact.”