Home Projects What is keeping southeastern Idaho teens off the streets?

What is keeping southeastern Idaho teens off the streets?

According to a 2019 Idaho Healthy Youth Survey, “One in four Idaho high school students reported having at least one drink of alcohol on one or more of the past 30 days (at the time the survey was taken).”

The survey also showed that 15% of students had reported having their first sip of alcohol before turning 13.

Katie Barnes is the activities coordinator for Community Youth in Action (CYA), a program in Idaho Falls that strives to empower teens in southeastern Idaho.

Barnes explained that one of the goals of CYA is to keep students from trying drugs and alcohol.

“Some people will say that this is for at risk teenagers,” Barnes said. “What qualifies them to be at risk? The fact that they are teenagers. All teenagers are at risk. Regardless of their income status.”

Katie Barnes, CYA's Activities Coordinator, stands outside the LIV Teen Center.
Katie Barnes, CYA's Activities Coordinator, stands outside the LIV Teen Center. Photo credit: Julia Brunette

What do they do for teens?

CYA offers many different programs focusing on teens from fifth to 12th grade.

Teens are provided dinners and transportation to and from the LIV Teen Center, which provides clothes, extra utilities, tutoring lessons, enrichment lessons and activities.

Enrichment lessons include art, music and STEM education.

A quilt hangs on one of the hallway walls at the LIV Center.
A quilt hangs on one of the hallway walls at the LIV Center. Photo credit: Julia Brunette

The center offers many areas to explore and learn new skills. One such area is a makerspace where one can learn the basics of 3D printing and 3D modeling.

Another area is the music studio, where teens can learn new instruments and learn to dance with their own dance crew, the “Groove Crew.”

The LIV Teen Center is operated by six different teams led by youth team leaders. These teams are facilitated by adult mentor volunteers and staff.

— Prevention team

— Volunteerism team

— Connections team

— Activities team

— Skill-building team

— Mental health team

The LIV Teen Center also provides counseling sessions for all teens and adults. These group sessions are organized into three different categories: middle school, high school and parents.

The center also has a special counseling and support group program called the Bright Lights where teens who identify as LGBTQ can come and receive group counseling sessions.

A teen creating a 3D project in the STEM room.
A teen creating a 3D project in the STEM room. Photo credit: Julia Brunette

How are they funded?

CYA is financed by grants and fundraising. They incorporate fundraising projects throughout the year that typically include selling fireworks, carwashes, and concerts.

All other money that comes in to support the program comes in the form of grants that the organization applies for throughout the year.

Who are they run by?

CYA is run by a community of volunteers. These volunteers typically possess some sort of skill/talent that they want to contribute or teach to the youth in the program.

Part of what makes CYA function is its unique collection of teens in the leadership group. These teens show up to service projects, attend leadership classes and conferences and prove through their actions that they want to be leaders amongst their peers.

The teen volunteers attend multiple leadership conferences throughout the year. They are taught leadership skills, personal development and participate in team-building activities.

A CYA student socializing with other students in the dance studio.
A CYA student socializing with other students in the dance studio. Photo credit: Julia Brunette

The volunteers typically hold their positions until they graduate high school and consistently volunteer hours throughout the week.

“It requires a lot of time and effort on their part to be a leader,” Barnes said. “They have to show up to everything, and they are involved in a lot of meetings.”

CYA volunteers meet at the LIV Teen Center for activities and classes each week.

How did it begin?

The program was organized on June 11, 2018, by Becky Leatham and a group of local teens.

They started the organization to “empower the youth of the local community.”

Written meeting notes by Olivia Johnson are on display at the LIV Center.
Written meeting notes by Olivia Johnson are on display at the LIV Center. Photo credit: Julia Brunette

Olivia Johnson was one of the students who collaborated on the creation of the program. A few days after completing the CYA mission statement, Johnson passed away.

The team decided to name the center after Johnson, calling it the “LIV Teen Center.”

You can find more information on the CYA website.

Encouraging messages are found on the whiteboard in the dance room.
Encouraging messages are found on the whiteboard in the dance room. Photo credit: Julia Brunette

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