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We're in Good Hands, Mendocino

February 9, 2009
Another Voice
Ukiah Daily Journal
by Rick Le Burkien

I want to share the smile in my heart and express my appreciation to those who are proactively building economic and ecological vitality here in Mendocino County. Several months ago I introduced you to MendoFutures, an organization dedicated to economic vitality. Since then, they've grown in the areas of water commons, infrastructure and investment, education and food localization. Today, they've added optimizing our youth's spirit, energy, and desire to serve.

"Anything you want to do here can happen here."
- Kate Magruder

In October of 2007, I met Billy Crawford of McDowell Valley Vineyard while interviewing for a position where he was the Chairman of the Board. To entice me to take the position, Billy introduced me to his kids and his vision. Simply, he wanted them to come home, have grandkids and prosper.

Unfortunately, the prospects for that were not good because of the lack of economic opportunities. But Billy had a dream of a future where all Mendocino County kids could return to great jobs, extraordinary cultural heritage and a wonderful place to raise a family. Billy had me at "kids." I even included his son and son's girlfriend in my first presentation to the Board of Supervisors. I soon discovered that his dream was shared by every citizen I met. Young people seemed to be at the core of every initiative that spoke to prosperity, sustainability and growth.

In response to this vision, MendoFutures has elected to help cultivate a next generation of young leaders. Two younger members of MendoFutures were called to move the vision forward: Jendi Coursey, Administrative Director, Marketing & Communication, Ukiah Valley Medical Center and Cliff Paulin, Attorney at Law.

The group, now being called NextGenNet, had their first meeting, January 16, 2009, where they want to engage young people in shaping the county's future. The energy in the room was explosive, our future is more secure... it is obvious that Mendocino County is in good hands.

I want to share just a sample of statements and passions from those in discussion that seem to represent the essence of our next generation of community leaders.

Karen Adair "When engaging teens, it is critical to find what makes them feel worthwhile and special and helps them find who they are. If the answer is productive, makes them feel a stronger sense of what they relate to, helps them see opportunities they would not have otherwise seen, and is income-producing, their interest develops staying power. It's exciting to see this effort. Even more exciting to see there's a team that can make it happen!"

Cliff Paulin "How do we get more young people involved, how do you make what we're doing and want to achieve attractive to a younger generation? Are we addressing issues that are important to young people and how do we brand that? In MendoFutures terms, how do we teach the old ways in new ways?"

Ben Provan "My passion would be building a "Tools for Life" camp. A camp where youth begin to explore the real world possibilities, that empowers them and sets the tone for a more successful and productive life."

Grace Magruder "We can provide an opportunity for young people to learn about what's going on in Mendocino County, the issues, concerns, challenges and involve them in the solutions. We need to somehow develop a connection and process where youth can enter into the flow easily and hit the ground running seamlessly."

Zach Schat "Young people in their teens and even early 20s are self-indulgent. Money is a primary motivating factor. In order to appeal to this audience we have to be sensitive to their behavioral characteristics. They want to feel good about what they're doing and how they're doing, they want to be appreciated, acknowledged, recognized and valued. This is the type of program we want to build."

MendoFutures' NextGenNet aims to provide young adults with a powerful way to give back. Now is a more important time than ever for young adults to serve their communities. Many of the members of MendoFutures have witnessed first hand the rewarding experience of further advancing our local communities. NextGenNet is focused on 14 to 21 year olds from diverse backgrounds to find meaningful ways to engage young people to get involved in community service.

MendoFutures began by being dedicated to building economic vitality. Today, MendoFutures is adding a commitment to rejuvenating a sense of civic responsibility and inspire young people to become integral to creating Mendocino County's future. We are in good hands, Mendocino.

Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead

For more information, contact Susan Strom, Coordinator, MendoFutures, or call (707) 937-3400.

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