LEWISTON – It’s all about giving Twin Cities teens a voice, according to Athena Andoniades.

That’s been the point of the Youth Adult Dialogue Action discussions throughout November, and it was the point at the final meeting Thursday. So, Andoniades, a Lewiston high school junior and member of the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council, voted to give youth more of a say in their lives.

“We’ve talked about getting a youth vote in school board decisions,” she said. “If youth can get that position of power, then all of this, everything else we want to do, falls in line.”

Participants in the cultural dialogue agreed, making youth civic engagement one of their top priorities. Now, they’ll meet over the next four months to try to make that, and three other top priorities, happen.

Organizers say 134 people have participated in the YADA meetings at some point this fall. The group met each week in November to discuss life for youth in the Twin Cities, its deficiencies and how to fix them. Volunteers trained a group of teen and adult facilitators to lead the meetings and help participants talk about what they wanted.

Thursday’s meeting was the culmination of the process, when participants got to pick their favorite ideas and then volunteer to make them happen.

Other top priorities were expanding arts and cultural opportunities, building a youth center and doing a better job at getting news about events and happenings out to teens.

Ari Rosenberg, one of the adult meeting facilitators, said the call for a youth center has always been one of the biggest goals. That item received the most votes Thursday night.

“Youth can go to the skate park and skate or the park and play basketball, but they don’t have a place they can go and just hang out with their friends,” she said. “They just want someplace where they can control the rules but still be supervised and safe.”

Participants begin meeting in January, trying to figure out how to make wishes come true. Organizer Holly Lasagna said the group is also forming a fifth committee, to seek grants to fund the other projects.

The YADA effort has garnered $4,000 in donations from area businesses, and has $2,000 left over, Lasagna said.


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