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Council aims to activate teens
Oak Harbor High School freshman Zack Hastings laments that “there’s not much to do in Oak Harbor.”
For Hastings, and other young people who can’t find the right activity to meet their interests, there may be a new answer to teen boredom.
The health department recently launched the “Teen Activity Council,” a youth-run club that will meet at Oak Harbor High School. With little to no input from adults, young people will plan their own programs, make rules and elect officers.
The idea was conceived after health workers noticed an island-wide decline in physical fitness, and needed a new way to help prevent obesity.
“We decided we wanted youth to be part of the solution,” Whitney Webber of Island County Public Health said.
Youth obesity is a growing county and national problem, Webber said. A Healthy Youth Survey, conducted state-wide every two years, found that physical activity and vigorous exercise has decreased in Island County.
The health department began the early preparation for a youth-run club last year. Webber believes that by being proactive, teens can connect with community leaders and let them know what youth want for the city.
“I really hope this program gives teens a voice and a way to impact the health of their peers,” she said.
A poll found that Oak Harbor teenagers’ desire intramural sports, an underage dance club, an ice skating rink, girls’ football and rugby, to name a few.
The health department teamed up with the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District and Oak Harbor High School. The new club will fill students’ community service credit which is required for graduation.
About 20 students appeared at the council’s first meeting last Thursday; a good turnout for a finals’ week, organizers said.
Hastings said his impression of the teen-only brainstorming was that it felt “comfortable.”
“I think it will be a great program,” he said.
Funds to plan the program were part of a multi-state learning collaborative. However, teens will be responsible for raising most of the activity money.
“We will just be facilitators to begin with,” Craig Carlson, director of the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District said.
Webber said teens, age 13 to 18, can still sign up.
For more information on the Teen Activity Council, call 360-240-5554, ext. 30.