November 11, 1997 in Features

Teen Students Team Up On Problem-Solving Tasks

Maisy Fernandez Correspondent
 

Spokane teens will go head-to-head next spring, not in debate or sports competition, but to solve issues facing our community.

“To Make a Difference” is a year-old program that allows teens to contribute to society and have their voices heard, said Dr. Chuck Morrison, a Spokane physician and co-chair of the To Make a Difference program.

Often, people feel detached from the community. That’s why the Citizen’s League of Greater Spokane started teh program last year - to break the cycle of feeling excluded from the community at the high school level, Morrison said.

In 1997, about 300 kids participated, resulting in the entry of more than 70 problem-solving projects.

Youths work in teams of at least three. After defining a problem, they research it and prepare recommendations on how to fix it. Several tentative topic “umbrellas” exist to choose from: recreation, community-building, environment, growth management, education and economy.

It’s open to anyone in grades 7-12; junior and senior high school projects are judged separately.

And it’s not limited to school participation, said Morrison. Groups can form anywhere, whether it’s Girl Scouts, Crosswalk or just a group of friends from different schools.

This year, a teen panel has been assembled to review topics and prizes, and offer suggestions and comments, said Morrison. Also this year, teen education workshops will be presented by experts in each topic field.

On Oct. 29, a presentation was held to educate local teachers on To Make A Difference. A representative from each school attended.

One improvement overshadows the rest, though. Upon completion of the 1998 projects, follow-up meetings will be held to ensure the teens’ ideas are taken seriously, said Morrison. “The kids will have the opportunity to work with city planners to implement their ideas,” he said.

The 1997 winning project, submitted by a team from Rogers High School, focused on underage drinking and driving. For their efforts, the team received $500 cash, school and individual trophies and a certificate signed by city officials, Tom Foley, ambassador to Japan and former Speaker of the House, and Spokane congressman George Nethercutt. The 1998 cash prize will likely be higher, Morrison said.

Rogers English teacher Steve Allen was the adviser for last year’s winning team. He assigned the work as a class project; the students worked about four to five hours a week for several weeks, Allen said.

Orlia Pajimola, a Rogers sophomore and a member of the team, said the most rewarding part of the project was learning that teenage drinking and driving was much more prevalent than they originally thought. “It really hits home when people around you are doing these things,” she said.

The group donated their $500 cash award to MADD. “We thought it would be a way to make a difference because the money went to the cause we wrote about. It was the best thing to do with it,” Pajimola said.

For more information, call the Chase Youth Commission at 625-6440 or the Citizen’s League of Greater Spokane at 326-1129.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: Created in support of the Spokane County Health Improvement Partnership (HIP), Discoveries highlights people working to improve community health and well-being. If you have a discovery that deserves recognition, call 742-3660. Or visit their Web site at www.hipspokane.org.

Created in support of the Spokane County Health Improvement Partnership (HIP), Discoveries highlights people working to improve community health and well-being. If you have a discovery that deserves recognition, call 742-3660. Or visit their Web site at www.hipspokane.org.


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