When Spokane Valley City Councilwoman Linda Thompson was elected to the dais in 2017, she made a promise to give back to the community.
Thompson put forth an initiative to encourage youth involvement with the community through Spokane Valley Youth Voice – a group of teens from area school districts, who have been meeting for more than a year to discuss safety, mental well-being, living without a home, substance misuse and youth employment.
“It’s been really good,” Thompson said, referencing the Youth Voice group. “I’m grateful for anyone that does come to the meetings. I did it because young people said, ‘No one wants to hear from us.’ ”
Thompson said another goal of the Youth Voice group is to grow young leaders who could eventually run for City Council or the state Legislature, as well as connecting youth with resources to gain a network of community support.
Spokane Valley Youth Voice aims to begin discussions with organizations, schools, and community leaders. A first step toward those discussions was a community engagement event held Monday at CenterPlace Regional Event Center.
The event featured information from resources such as Cascades Job Corps, the Greater Substance Abuse Council, Spokane Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort, the HEART Program, Socks for People Without Homes, No Fear in Love, Spokane County Public Library and the Spokane Regional Health District.
Karen Bontrager, licensed counselor and founder of No Fear in Love, a 6-mile annual race dedicated toward building youth awareness about healthy relationships, spoke with the Spokane Valley Youth Voice group about knowing their worth.
“Young people need to know they are important now,” she said to the group.
Rick Scott, director of SCOPE (Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort), was in attendance to share resources and volunteer opportunities with the group.
He said it’s important for youth to report a suspicious incident in schools and the community to improve safety.
“The bottom line is it takes all of us to make our community safe,” he said.
East Valley High School senior Christine Dugger, who has been attending Spokane Valley Youth Voice meetings since they began last year, showcased her organization, Socks for People Without Homes, at the event.
The organization, co-founded by Christine’s mother, Amanda, provides socks, water and hygiene items to people without homes. They hand out bags daily near warming shelters.
Dugger asked the group if they would be interested in collecting items for a sock drive in the future.
Central Valley High School sophomore Adora Wallgren began attending Spokane Valley Youth Voice meetings last year.
She said the Youth Voice meetings are engaging, and an area she wants to address is substance misuse in the community.
“I hope we can inspire youth to incite change in their schools and in their neighborhoods,” she said.
Spokane Valley Youth Voice is holding their next meeting Monday, April 8 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Spokane Valley City Hall.
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