|Greg Cowan, chairman of the Castle Country's Promise welcomes members and guests to the fall kickoff luncheon. Besides Cowan's comments, several other people spoke of activities and goals for the upcoming season. Guest speaker of the event was Steven Burge.|
General Colin L. Powel served 35 years in the Army, rising to the top rank of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served as an advisor to three U. S. presidents, and has been nominated by President Bush to service as the 65th Secretary of State. But General Powell has a passion most people may not know about: kids.
Not just his own, but the nation's kids. General Powell was instrumental in the creation of America's Promise, and since 1997 has served as chairman of the program, America's Promise - The Alliance for Youth.
His dream has spread to Castle Country and more than 50 people from several schools, agencies and businesses gathered last Tuesday, September 17 to kick off the fall campaign. According the Greg Cowan, who chairs the Castle Country's Promise, the group was formally known as Carbon County Caring Adults Program, "but when we began expanding into Emery County we wanted a name that would include the entire area we serve," he said at a luncheon, hosted by Castle Country Youth Center.
The local group was organized in January of 2000 and operates as a nonprofit agency in conjunction with CEU's volunteer center. "We are all about youth of the area," explained Cowan, adding, "our mission statement is to bring hope to local youth through five promises."
These promises and the people who chair the committees include Caring Adults, chaired by Greg Cowan. This program is operated through mentoring, tutoring and coaching. The safe places with structured activities during after school hours is headed by Romella Urrutia and Tara Compaign. The third committee is healthy start and future and is chaired by Anne Mackiewicz. Marketable skills through effective education is lead by April Durrant and the fifth promise is opportunities for youth to give back through community service, a committee headed by Kathy Murray.
The kickoff meeting last week gave each of the committee chairs a chance to discuss their work and goals and recruit new volunteers to serve on their committee. They identified goals and developed an implementation plan toward each promise at this meeting.
There are over 550 promise communities throughout the nation.
Guest speaker at the event was Steven Burge, who has worked in several capacities that affect children. As a youth tracker, a former high school teacher, an attorney and now director of the criminal justice program at CEU, Burge talked about the program and the committee's crusade to build character and competence of young people. "We can really affect and improve the competence of our youth," he said, adding that "miracles do happen, changes are made, and families do grow."
He discussed five truisms beginning with the fact that "families are the conditions of our society. We need solid growth in families to reach youth so they have the best chance to make an impact on our community," he said.
Family problems are the first predictor of youth problems said Burge who adds that the focus must address this issue. He pointed out that there are two million people in jail currently. "We must refocus our recourses to take a greater look at education and intervention," said Burge.
His third item pointed out that crime is really isolated into a small group, stating that only 1.5 percent of youth commit 60 percent of our crimes in Carbon County. "There has been a steady decrease in crime throughout the 90's," he said.
Burge pointed out that "We preach to the choir and also punish the choir." He added that "we are sometimes too tough, not letting kids be kids."
One of his questions to the group was, "are we giving kids the freedoms to grow and the opportunities to learn and develop."
The final point was that often it takes a significant person in a kid's life to influence them, "give them the spark or push."
He talked about nothing to do and identified problems of small towns compared to bigger cities. "We sometimes have an identity problem here because we are too small for the excitement and opportunity of larger communities and too big for the flexibility of a small and slower paced community."
He talked about building a youth recreation center and challenged the group to "dare to be bold."
Following Burge's comments the various chair people discussed ways to expand their committees and several ideas were thrown out and talked about. These ideas included everything from transportation issues to job shadowing.
A new student grant at CEU was announced where scholarships are available to students who volunteer in the community.
Two additional opportunities this fall include Join Hands Day towards the end of October and Service Day.
For more information or to volunteer on one of the committees, contact Greg Cowan at 637-5195 or visit the website at firstname.lastname@example.org.