Youth continue to need support

Linda Teener

By A Contributor

I have received several calls from UFM constituents as a result of the implication in the Wednesday, July 10, Manhattan Mercury that the city was recommending a $20,000 cut to UFM.

In fact, the SSAB request UFM Community Learning Center made was for $3,000 to continue funding a community youth scholarship fund. This program, funded by the city since 2001, has provided a small pool of funds to allow the children of low-income families the same opportunities to participate in programs such as gymnastics, sports camps or other community activities as children from more fortunate families.

The withdrawal of this funding does not affect UFM programs. We have served as the fund manager as a service to meet a community need. UFM has donated staff time and supplies to administer the program. In an average year, about 12 community programs are utilized and an average of 35 scholarships have been awarded to local families.

We have seen this as a true primary prevention program that offers opportunities for children from lower-income families to try new activities, make new friends, stay out of trouble and potentially find an activity that could become a life-long pursuit. Providing youth with positive experiences and outlets for energy can prevent them from participating in much riskier behaviors that cost our community in school and police intervention.

The Communities That Care survey is an annual snapshot of self-report attitudes and behaviors of our local youth in grades seven, eight, 10 and 12. In 2012, first use of marijuana was reported at 14.12 years of age and first use of alcohol at 13.05 years of age.  Also, 11 percent of eighth-graders, 33 percent of 10th graders and 46 percent of 12th graders reported using alcohol at least occasionally, and 5 percent of eighth-graders, 15 percent of 10th graders and 26 percent of 12th graders reported binge drinking.

Fifty-five percent of eighth-graders believe they can use alcohol without getting caught. This goes up to 83 percent by 12th grade.  Eight percent of eighth graders, 13 percent of 10th graders and 15 percent of seniors reported being drunk or high at school.

Providing alternative activities and enhancing resistance skills are key components to addressing this issue. The Community Youth Scholarship Fund has contributed a small piece to this effort.

In working to balance the city budget there seems to be a good deal of public focus on UFM’s $3,000 request to fund the community youth scholarship fund.

Because UFM does not wish to cast doubt about our sustainability to our constituents or shake the faith of many in the community who support UFM’s programs, we are withdrawing our request to continue this scholarship fund.

Scholarships will continue to be available for UFM-specific classes. We fund scholarships for our classes separately from the Social Services Advisory Board Fund that provided scholarships for participation in non-UFM activities elsewhere in the community.

We wish the City Commission our best as it navigates through the very difficult process of balancing the city budget.

We also hope that private businesses and individuals will come forward to keep the Community Youth Scholarship Fund available in the Manhattan community.

Linda Teener is the director of UFM Community Learning Center, 1221 Thurston St.

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