HHCC believes more adults need to be more involved in activities for youth
By STEPH TAHTINEN
Mt. Pleasant News
In order to increase civic and social engagement among the youth in Henry County, there must be more adult involvement.
That is one of the conclusions the Healthy Henry County Communities board came to at its regular meeting on Tuesday afternoon discussing the issue with a panel of guests representing the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, the Henry County Mentoring Program and Mt. Pleasant Public Library.
Combined, the programs offered by these groups serve roughly 1,000 kids in Henry County. However, they need more adult volunteers and assistance — especially if they want to grow the programs and help more kids.
“Probably what we need in our youth program, and I guess others will agree, is more adults that are willing to step up and be volunteers,” said Janet Smith, program specialist with the Iowa State Extension Office in Henry County, who was there to represent 4-H. “We could handle and love to have more kids, but in most cases we need more volunteers.”
This sentiment was also shared by Cassie Gerst of the Henry County Mentoring program. The mentoring program makes use of high school students, IWC students and adults to be mentors, but she would like to see more adults serving as mentors.
“It would be so great for them to see not only the college kids, but adults coming in there who want to be with them,” said Gerst.
HHCC Coordinator Kelly Carr noted that she has heard from Boy and Girl Scout troops in the area that they need more parental and adult involvement in the programs.
“Parents just want to drop their kids off and have it be kind of a daycare for a little while,” said Carr. “They don’t want to actually have to participate, and that’s the struggle that I’ve heard from them, too, is getting the adults involved along with their kids.”
David Lane, district executive of the Shoquoquon District in the Mississippi Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and Jennifer Kuisle, regional membership manager at Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois, both agreed that family involvement is important for keeping the kids involved.
“There is always a need for additional adult involvement, specifically family involvement,” said Lane. “That’s sometimes where the bigger struggle is, is getting the families to make a commitment.”
Another issue mentioned by Kuisle is that the Girl Scouts will often start to lose kids around sixth to eighth grade, a trend noted by the other programs as well.
“When you get to that sixth, seventh grade is when kids start dropping off,” said Smith. “I just think that’s really the time when kids are finding their place.”
Kuisle said that from her experience, keeping girls involved longer is dependent on the adults who are involved.
“For girls to stay involved in our program, it’s definitely the adults that really make it happen,” said Kuisle, who noted that troop leaders with older girls need to work around the girls’ busy schedules and change activities to match the girls’ interests.
The group discussed the need to get more information about these various programs and opportunities out to kids and their parents to encourage more involvement. One idea was maybe having the programs sponsor an activity at the mentoring program’s Club M events or HHCC’s upcoming run/walk/bike/trike event that will in Swedesburg on May 4.
The HHCC board will continue its discussion on civic and social engagement at its next meeting on May 14 with plans to focus on adults and seniors. They will then look at both discussions to decide what the best overall action steps are to increase involvement in the county.