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‘What they have to say is very important’

Youth Forum is Saturday

-Messenger file photo
Cayci Bidleman, 17, a student at Fort Dodge Senior High, shares her thoughts during the 2018 Youth Empowerment Association, Inc. and Iowa Central Diversity Committee Youth Forum held in the Bioscience & Health Sciences Building at Iowa Central Community College.

Young leaders will take center stage this Saturday at Iowa Central Community College to reveal their thoughts on what could make Fort Dodge better and what might keep them in the area.

Their comments will be made during the Youth Empowerment Association’s annual Youth Forum, which will begin at 10 a.m. in the Bioscience and Health Sciences Building.

Students from Fort Dodge Senior High, St. Edmond High School, Manson Northwest Webster and Iowa Central Community College will be asked a series of questions by moderator Amy Simpson.

And this year another special guest will join the panel, according to Jennifer Johnson, executive director of the Youth Empowerment Association.

Johnson said for the first time a middle school student will be included in the group.

“She’s so mature, I thought she was in 10th grade,” Johnson admitted. “But she’s actually in eighth grade.”

Her name is Cheyann Valentine. Valentine attends Southeast Valley schools.

“We went with her because I think she can represent the middle school age very well,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the students will weigh in on things like job opportunities, classes that should be added and shopping in the area.

“A lot of it is what would keep the students in Fort Dodge,” Johnson said. “What kind of things do they feel are needed to keep them in their hometown or come back.”

She added, “It’s just an array of all kinds of questions they answer honestly — where the community needs work and where it’s doing well.”

Johnson said government officials and school administrators would benefit from hearing the students’ perspectives.

“Adults can make choices, but unless we listen to what the kids are saying, are we really making the right changes?” Johnson asked.

Students know the questions ahead of time.

“We let the kids look at it a day before to ponder on it, but we really just want their honest answers,” Johnson said.

Johnson said it’s a great opportunity to learn what’s on young people’s minds.

“Right now we are in a climate where a lot of change is happening and some of it is good and some of it is bad,” Johnson said. “One way we can make our community better is to listen to our future leaders. What they have to say is very important.”

The forum is free to attend and Johnson welcomes anyone from the community to join.

Youth Forum

When: Saturday

Where: Bioscience & Health Science Building at Iowa Central Community College

Time: 10 a.m.

Cost: Free community event

Sponsored by: Youth Empowerment Association Inc. and Iowa Central

Diversity Committee