An effort to better coordinate the Carlisle area’s youth programs now has some structure.
After several months of development, the Carlisle Youth Initiative held another public meeting Wednesday night to get community members involved in what has become a multifaceted approach to helping young people gain access to the resources they need.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here,” said Carlisle Police Chief Taro Landis, who has served as the public face of the program. “We’ve already got a lot of great stuff going on.”
The issue is one of coordination between Carlisle’s different nonprofits and social service agencies, and getting the word out that help is available, Landis said.
“The school district is a great place to start,” Landis said, thanking the Carlisle Area School District for its support.
He cited successful social campaigns such as anti-smoking and seatbelt use, which started in schools, changing the behavior of children who passed it on to their parents.
“Our kids aren’t set in their ways. Our kids know the world is not all black and white,” Landis said.
Attendees as Wednesday’s meeting heard from five subcommittees that the Carlisle Youth Initiative has created — mentoring, communications, application assistance, scholarships, and research.
Carlisle has a number of programs that use mentors to help at-risk youths, but there is generally more demand for help than supply. The committee will hold a session at 6 p.m. Sept 26 at the Carlisle Police Department.
“I have 24 boys on my waiting list right now,” said Barrie Ann George of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Capital Region. “That means I need 24 men to come out Sept. 26.”
Throughout the meeting, the idea of simply taking the effort to show up was a recurring theme.
“Call your friends and your friends’ friends. Tell them to show up,” Landis said.
The Carlisle Youth Initiative is also looking for those interested in helping youths fill out applications, a potentially daunting process for disadvantaged students and parents who did not go through the college application and scholarship process themselves.
“To be able to express yourself and your goals clearly on an application is really important, and it’s often the biggest roadblock,” said Laury McIntyre of the Employment Skills Center, which has been leading the effort to develop an application coaching program.
The group’s research committee has already amassed a body of material about what programs in the area are the most effective and in need of the most support. Initiatives like alternative education for troubled youths, as well as classes and aid for first-time and teenage mothers, are high on the list.
“These are the types of programs that produce lifelong results,” said Becca Raley of Partnership for Better Health.
The research committee also includes youths, including the Carlisle Area Youth Council, a group started by Carlisle High School student Samantha Martin.
“One of the best things you can do is simply listen to young people,” Raley said.
Further, the Carlisle Youth Initiative is also trying to set up a scholarship fund, run through United Way. The scholarships would be geared toward students in the middle of the academic pack, who would otherwise opt not to attend college, trade school or any other post-secondary training.
The fund got its first $250 donation this week, said Rick Coplen, a Carlisle school board member and one of the major drivers of the Carlisle Youth Initiative.
“We’re not looking toward the kids who are at the top of the class and already have a lot of scholarship opportunities,” Coplen said. “We’re talking about kids who would otherwise not have any scholarships available to them.”
This attitude, Coplen and Landis said, is key to the Carlisle Youth Initiative’s goal — treating the community’s youths as a collective responsibility regardless of race, gender, wealth or career choice.
“They’re all our kids. … They’re all going to be contributing to our community and our economy,” Coplen said.