Several Lawrence sixth-graders hope to learn more about their role in the community at the first statewide conference designed to help youth and community leaders work together.
The students, all officers in the Youth in Action programs at Hillcrest and Cordley elementary schools, will be the youngest participants in the conference Wednesday and Thursday in Manhattan, so they hope to benefit from the experience of the older students.
"Hopefully, we'll learn a lot since they have more experience," said Sally Russell, YA vice president at Hillcrest. "There's going to be some kids there who have started businesses and they can tell us what it's like."
Helen Tulley, Hillcrest Elementary School teacher, said next week's conference, "We Can Do It! Youth and Community Together," offers a new challenge and opportunity for the youngsters.
"THEY'RE REALLY trying to develop leadership skills," she said. "This will be their first experience going out and meeting other people who are doing the same thing."
Tulley said business owners have said they are concerned that today's youth lack commitment, sufficient interpersonal skills and the ability to work in a team situation.
"Those are some of the things I'm trying to get the kids to do," she said. "There are no extrinsic rewards. I don't ever want them to get paid; I just want them to feel good. The younger you establish a habit like this, it becomes part of their everyday life and it'll stay with them."
Community service is not new to these children. The YA group initiated a recycling program in the schools and worked to end the use of plastic foam containers in school lunches, as well as taking numerous other steps to promote environmental consciousness.
TULLEY'S STUDENTS say they feel a sense of responsibility to contribute to the community. "Since we're going to be old enough someday to take charge of the nation, we don't want to leave our children and their children with something to clean up," said Jessica Katich, YA secretary at Hillcrest. "Why not start now?"
Beth Tatarko, assistant director for the Kansas Center for Rural Initiatives, an organization sponsoring the conference, said the conference will highlight successful partnerships between youth and adults in community service, community development and leadership projects.
Panels of students and adults from Ulysses, Wamego and Fort Scott will speak at the conference. They will describe successful programs that team students and adults in businesses, and in community service and community development.
"If adults and kids can look at someone else like themselves and see that it's working, they'll be more likely to give it a try," Tatarko said.
Also, students will be asked to target specific needs in their communities and develop plans to address the needs.
Lawrence students attending the conference will be Avery Lominska, Jonathon Lane, Sally Russell, Jessica Katich, Lisa Katich, Tim Budinger, Eric Bublitz and Katie Bruner.