Representatives from the student councils of Delta County's four high schools met with the Delta County Planning Commission Dec. 20. They shared the results of their open discussion meetings with their respective student bodies in which they gathered information for use in the county Master Plan update.
Student participation in the discussions at each of the four high schools ranged between 20 and 45 students. Students shared with their student councils what they valued and appreciated about their communities, concerns they had about school or community, and where they saw room for improvement.
The students also addressed the question of whether they would remain in Delta County after their graduation from high school, or if they would return to Delta County to live after completing higher education and/or having better paying employment elsewhere.
Student leaders who discussed their findings with the Planning Commission were:
Carmen, seventh grade vice president for combined Paonia Junior-Senior High School; Jessica and Holly of Cedaredge High School; Casey, Blake and Lauren of Delta High School; and Nolan from Hotchkiss High School.
The message from students from all four high schools was that they appreciated the caring populations of their communities, their communities' support and involvement in attending sports events, music events and other activities at the school, and the financial support of the business community for these events.
Concerns included lack of bike lanes at one school, lack of places for young people to get together for activities, the need for more entertainment and an entertainment center, and a lack of places for little kids' activities. The need for more books was identified and the road to one school needs to be fixed.
Lack of public transportation, lack of job opportunities, need for scholarships and help applying for scholarships were noted, as was the need for more community events and more public parks. The drug problem within the school and spreading through the community were also identified.
Requests for organized group trips to the wonderful outdoor places in the county and more restaurants with outdoor seating were included.
The obstacles to students remaining in Delta County after graduation, or returning to Delta County after attaining their higher educations, include more opportunities elsewhere and no jobs or careers that students want to pursue available in the county. Some students want to travel and some will leave the county because they have dreams and big ideas. Some may come back to visit family and some may come back to raise their families.
Individually, members of the Delta County Planning Commission thanked the students for attending and sharing the results of their listening sessions. Members engaged the students in identifying ways to offset the lack of opportunities in Delta County.
Planning commission chairman Bob Stechert said, "We need to identify ways to attract youth to Delta County, how to provide more job opportunities for youth and have those solutions find their way into the Master Plan update."
Jen Sanborn said the students had planted seeds to addressing the problems, such as providing gathering places and transportations routes. "We want you guys to come back to Delta County later in your lives," she said.
"You have expressed your concerns well," said Layne Brones. "Delta County has great opportunities in agriculture and agronomy, such as big dairy herds, feeding lots. I hope you will stay."
Tate Locke said he was interested in hearing the students' perspective regarding gathering spots. He also asked, "What are people your age looking at as a career?"
He heard answers of engineering, aircraft, technology, and jobs in high speed internet.
Locke also asked what kind of drugs the students were referring to in their concerns. They identified marijuana and underage alcohol use.
Steve Schrock asked what the students meant by better jobs -- youth jobs in school, jobs with training, mentoring?
Students gave examples such as job shadowing, involving working one day a week with a person who had that job, where they would gain ideas of careers they would like to pursue; opportunities that would help them figure out what they really want to do. Also helpful would be a one-day job fair which would provide students with information about what jobs are available in the area and whether they are interested in those jobs.
Kim Shay asked the students to stay involved.