Our View: Let’s show we take our kids, and their future, seriously | TheUnion.com

Our View: Let’s show we take our kids, and their future, seriously

As you likely read on the front page of today’s edition of The Union, a pair of local women who are passionate about providing positive programs for the young people of our community are taking their commitment to a whole new level.

And it’s time for our community to step up and help shoulder the load in what could potentially be a pivotal project for not only our young people, but all who live here in western Nevada County.

Halli Ellis and Lynn Skukrud co-founded NEO (New Events & Opportunities) in 2008 as the youth sector of the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County. NEO, according to the organization’s website, “was created to go beyond traditional substance abuse prevention efforts by actively engaging young people to make healthy choices through positive alternative activities, all while addressing key root causes of substance use and abuse in fun and meaningful ways for young people.”

Now six year later, NEO is looking for a permanent home to offer its programs while providing a positive place for young people to hang out. The organization is forging ahead with its plan to raise funds through a capital campaign in order to take the first steps toward purchasing property in order to provide our community with the kind of youth center that will expand the positive impact NEO has already made.

And we, as a community, should both applaud and join the organization’s effort in making this a reality.

But what if we, as a community, could expand that cause to not only offer our young people a positive place to congregate, but also provide everyone who lives here the kind of benefits brought forth by an actual full-fledged community center?

As often as we hear that there isn’t much for teens and young people to do in our community, complaints over the lack of facilities to meet our needs are other regularly repeated refrains — from not enough gym space or indoor swimming, to not enough large conference areas or venues with quality acoustics, to not enough public access of the latest technology or high-speed Internet access to make the most of it.

What if we, as a community, could come together to meet many of these needs with a single state-of-the-art facility capable of bridging these gaps as well as the generations of people who live here?

As you read this, there are many members of our community — from our elected officials and business owners, to our nonprofit directors and volunteers — hard at work in order to encourage economic development in western Nevada County. In addition to providing a place for the positive programs that NEO and so many of our nonprofit organizations provide to those who live here, consider what an attractive asset and amenities such a facility could offer to our Economic Resource Council and others working to recruit businesses to relocate here.

We know why such a community center would be so welcomed; the benefits are as obvious as the substantial cost to build it.

The real question is, “How do we make it happen?”

Those answers might not be as apparent, but we know they’re out there. Other communities, both larger and smaller, have found a way to make such a project a reality. And considering the kind of people who live here — so generous and talented — we’re confident that our community could come together to do the same. We seek to start the conversation with those who have expertise in all areas such a project would entail, everything from architecture and construction to financing and business planning. We also call on all of our community leaders — elected or otherwise — from the Board of Supervisors, city councils, school boards, law enforcement and our court system to join the discussion.

If you think this is the kind of project from which western Nevada County would benefit, and with which you could offer some expertise to get it off the ground, we want to hear from you. Email your contact information to us at EditBoard@TheUnion.com and let us know how you can help get the conversation started to gauge whether we, as a community, have the means and the will to move forward.

Whatever we learn from those in the know on how to pull off such a project, we at the very least owe it to our young people to investigate the options available to us. For the past six years, Lynn Skukrud and Halli Ellis — (as a matter of full disclosure, who we are proud to have as a member of The Union’s editorial board) — have poured their passion into making a positive impact on the young people of our community.

By pulling together to help their effort, and perhaps by dreaming big with the kind of community center from which we could all benefit, we’ll be showing them that we, as a community, take our kids — and their future — as serious as they do.

Our View represents the opinions of The Union Editorial Board, which is comprised of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.

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