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March 25, 2009
Another Voice
Ukiah Daily Journal
by Rick Le Burkien

The single most important purpose of this is to acknowledge and recognize the youth of Mendocino County. As much as I've communicated in the past about how extraordinary this place is in relation to passion and community I was surprised and awed by the maturity of our young people.

YGen . . .Be the Change I was honored to be invited to participate as an advisor to "Be the Change" Action Camp, March 21st at the Willits Grange Hall. I really didn't have a clue on my role but wanted to be of service and possibly have the privilege of mentoring and coaching young people. This event was sponsored by Mendocino County Workforce Investment Board and the Youth Council. Christa Ceck Photography and Trinity Craft were also contributors.

Students came from Redwood and Accelerated Achievement Academy, Willits, Potter Valley, Leggett, Anderson Valley, Lower Lake, and Upper Lake High Schools. The lead organizer of the event, and an excellent facilitator of the day was Kristin Frith. Her dedication to empowering youth, passion for youth leadership, and compassion for the challenges our youth face knocked me out and modeled maturity beyond her age. She is a shining example of what makes Mendocino County so unique. She has been instrumental in bringing Challenge Day to local high schools, which has as it's mission ensuring that every student feels safe, loved and celebrated.

What grabbed me was how aware these young people were of their environment, their community, national and international issues, relationship, social responsibility, human behavior and personal finances. Immediately I remembered when I was their age back in 1964. I had three things on my mind; fast cars, girls and wanting to be a fighter pilot. Inquired of a close friend why I feel like I was such an uninformed dork in high school vs. the kids of today? His response was, "it is because the young people of today have so much more and easy access to information than you did." These teens were demonstrating their concerns and awareness about eating disorders, substance use, teen suicide, discrimination, domestic violence, bullying (a big one), sexual activity, AIDS, Iraq, Afganistan, poverty, alcoholsim and about the self worth of themselves and their peers.

YGen . . .Be the Change The young people I spoke to stated they were not afraid to challenge the status quo. These students thrive in home, community, work, and school environments where creativity and independent thinking are looked upon as positive and appealing. They are very independent and tech savvy. However, it was obvious that adults today may not embrace these characteristics as much as they would desire.

It was also apparent that this group behaves best when adults are fair, direct and are engaged in their development. In addition to the counsel adults were trying to impart, you could tell that these teens were seeking out creative challenges and coming up with some very good solutions. What impressed me so was that every one of these students were interested in making an important impact. They know what many of us adults don't. Collaboration leads to ownership of tasks. With one group I discovered that the students were extremely aware of the economic crisis and are actually taking control of their own finances and even know what an IRA is. At their age I couldn't spell IRA.

I was thrilled that Kristin wants to expand this group. MendoFutures Operations team approved integrating YGen, Be the Change into their organization to facilitate their growth and public awareness throughout the county. "It will be great to provide them with a voice so as many as possible can hear what the students had to say, what they are feeling and what it's like being a Mendocino County teenager."

When we were done around 8:00 p.m. the students raved about the experience, hugged each other and expressed their desire to meet again. You could tell they appreciated that they got to give opinions on various things, and were heard by their peers and adults who listened to their feedback and promised to discuss with their respective principals and guidance counselors to make changes. I am not so sure I like the Y Generation title. I think, "Express Yourself Generation" is more appropriate. There are so many times when you don't think anything good will happen and then a group of young people with what used to be no voice have an opportunity to keep shouting, being heard, respected and cherished by us adults.

For more information please contact Kristin Frith, Chair Y Gen/Be the Change at: or Susan Strom, MendoFuture's Coordinator at

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