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IB Neighborhood Center Youth Council Is Hard At Work

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Posted: Friday, July 12, 2019 2:59 pm

When the Imperial Beach Neighborhood Center (IBNC) was created last year, it was with the idea to involve and empower the community with programs for people of all ages. One year later one of those goals has been reached with a youth council formed by a board of nine high school students who have organized some upcoming events meant to help the community and to earn service hours needed for graduation.

IBNC’s board president Hal Krebs and his wife Anya decided to become involved with the group and help the community they live in, specifically working with the youth council. The Krebs’ first step was to have a focus group of teenagers. “We thought it would be more meaningful to the people we were trying to serve. You may think you know what people need [but that’s not always the case]…,” he said. “The concept and the intent of doing the focus group is to make a difference…What hit home is that there is a requirement for volunteer hours to graduate. You need 30 hours to graduate but if you are aiming to get into a good school you need 40 to 50.”

Julian Chavez is one of the teenagers that attended the focus group. He heard about the meeting through the Leadership Club he belongs to at Mar Vista High School (MVHS). Up to that point he had been able to get a few community hours visiting a retirement home and once in a while he would get to do a project.

“Our whole district is in debt so there is no money for transportation,” he explained.

But Chavez was encouraged once he got together with the group of teens who formed the council. Based on their brainstorming, the nine teenagers have organized four events: a beach cleanup in partnership with I Love a Clean San Diego; Gallery by the Beach at Pier Plaza; an End of Summer Concert with MVHS musicians; and a Neighborhood Center Expo. “These are events that reflect the whole community…putting events out helps build community and it’s what the center is about - to create community and get everybody involved,” explained Chavez.

Another youth council member, Alex Lozano said one of the needs of the youth in Imperial Beach is to have a safe place to gather, do homework and get together.

John Griffin-Atil, executive director of IBNC, is excited about the upcoming events the youth council have put forth and has offered a possible place for a youth center where the teenagers can have a safe place to go to. “We’re looking at a location here, the basement is a possible place. It’s still in the works…coming this fall we’ll get it nailed down,” he said.

The Youth Council is part of the IBNC board but has no vote. “They have a voice but no vote, but that voice energizes the board,” said Griffin-Atil.

The IBNC’s other goal is to have focus groups for seniors and military residents to find out what their needs are, help them get organized and in time let them help each other. “We find people. We empower them to help their peer groups, the youth is the first focus group. We bring the group together, empower them and let them go and provide support,” explained Griffin-Atil.

“When you put the programs into the hands of the people you are trying to serve [it’s more meaningful] we can point them in the direction and then they do it themselves. What these kids are doing doesn’t exist [in Imperial Beach],” said Krebs.

“I didn’t know what to expect. It’s cool to go through that,” said Chavez about the work the council has done to create the events.

“It was no small endeavor to ask for donations. When I walked into IB Clean Water I didn’t know what to expect,” said Chavez who had to explain to the store’s owner about the council’s vision and the financial needs.

Chavez enjoyed the experience of telling the store owner about the council and get residents interested. Thanks to their work, the youth council was able to get supplies and donations from WalMart, Grocery Outlet and IB Clean Water.

While Krebs and Griffin-Atil coached the kids on how to introduce themselves and explain their mission they stepped back and let the kids have the experience of asking for donations themselves. “We went in expecting a gift card; instead the store manager filled up a cart with what we needed. She was super onboard with that,” said Lozano of the Wal Mart manager.

“The kids went out front and did everything, sharing responsibility of the storytelling, form a sense of teamwork, and the second time they had to do it they had it down. It’s no small task to go to a complete stranger,” said Griffin-Atil.

“Everyone over contributed, the message from the community is ‘we’ll support you,’” said Krebs.

Although there are nine youth on the council, teenagers who are interested in participating should contact the center because as the current councilmembers will graduate next year, underclassmen will be needed to be trained to continue the work.

Lozano is excited to see the council start with a few ideas in the fall to organizing the events, and see the work come to fruition this summer.

Chavez organized the beach cleanup event and loves the fact he can help his community. “This is my home. I have been living here since I was in kindergarten. I was able to create an event I care for and help the community I live in and love,” he said.

Griffin-Atil and Krebs agree that another important factor for the teenagers is that they now know how to organize an event, have learned leadership and fundraising skills which they can take with them when they are in college and continue helping their communities in the future.

For more information on the upcoming events log on imperialbeachneighborhoodcenter.org.

Beach Clean Up, July 15 from 9 to 11 a.m..; Gallery by the Beach, July 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pier Plaza, open to the public with a suggested donation of $5; End of Summer Concert with MVHS musicians, Aug. 24, 5:30 to 7 p.m.; IB Neighborhood Center Expo, Saturday, Sept. 14.

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