Youth coalition plans for teen center even without a building.

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With a sense of urgency spurred by the potentially violent incidents at Malibu High School last month, as well as the long-standing community demand for a teen center, the Malibu Youth Coalition is pushing hard to start a youth center program — without walls. The group has decided there is no time to wait for a building.

The coalition, an alliance of parents, school and business officials created after the April high school massacre in Littleton, Col., has created task forces for the youth center program, a community resource guide and an Internet youth activities master calendar. Kids are to be actively involved.

School district Superintendent Neil Schmidt, school district board member Pam Brady, elementary school Principals Pat Cairns and Cynthia Gray, Malibu High Assistant Principal Esther Winkleman, City Councilman Walt Keller, Chamber of Commerce members Beverly Hammond and Mark Ball, and MHS Governance Council Chair Jeff Jennings and Planning Commissioner Ken Kearsley joined about 20 parents at the Friday afternoon meeting at Malibu High School. Webster Elementary School representatives and youth were not at the meeting because of Halloween and homecoming activities, coalition founder Laure Stern said.

“The youth center is the key project for the community,” she said. “Littleton was such a big warning, we don’t have the luxury of waiting. After the incidents at Malibu High School [a student brought a gun to school and a bomb threat hoax was made the first week of October], we don’t have time for politics and much discussion. We need a place for kids to go, not only on the weekends but also after school.”

A recent media literacy class showed students had no reaction to violent images in videotapes of the Vietnam and Gulf wars, Stern said. “Kids are getting these images in an isolated community. They haven’t learned to express themselves. We have got to figure a way for kids to interact and socialize. They are looking for something to do.”

Youth would be involved in planning and implementation because they are involved in clubs and activities on campus and are proficient on computers, Stern added. “There’s no way anything can be done without the kids.”

Collaboration, funding

Stern asked city Recreation Supervisor Marilyn Stern to describe the community collaboration model she used when creating a teen center in San Diego County.

City official Stern said in Spring Valley, the city, law enforcement, school board and nonprofits invested staff time, money and other resources as the first level of collaboration. The city of Malibu had done this by committing part of her budget to the program, she said. “We are sitting at the table, that’s a commitment.”

The second level would be a partnership of at least two agencies. The third level would be collaboration by business, schools, religious organizations, etc.

Collaborators would prepare a mission statement, map assets to eliminate duplicate services and obtain funding. Nonprofits such as the city could apply for grants. For example, a state juvenile justice program must be applied for by March 2001 to obtain $500,000. Funding agencies look for a track record of collaboration, city official Stern said.

Center without walls

The center would be a place kids could call their own, a place they would go when they are troubled, recreation supervisor Stern continued. It would provide recreation and services such as health care, counseling, tutoring and business mentoring. “Kids would plan the events that appeal to them,” she said. “By using their talents and ideas, you will get them to come.” Parents Pat Cairns and Linda Piper noted how Friday night sports were popular.

One agency might provide a site for the center, recreation supervisor Stern said. If a building is not available, one collaborator might have land, another a trailer. “Right now we provide services. There is a concept of a center without walls. We are geographically challenged but maybe we could transport kids from place to place, such as from the skateboard park to counseling.”

Winkleman offered classrooms. Parent Barbara Milne suggested Saint John’s Hospital might bring a mobile health center.

Parks activist Kristin Reynolds suggested going to other communities to see how they have gotten groups involved.

Parents Larry Gray and Douglas Simpson were skeptical of city assistance and suggested the coalition take the lead. Keller responded that the city funds the sheriff’s Juvenile Intervention Team and recreation. Now that budget constraints were less, the city could use Proposition A funds for shuttle services instead of Kanan Dume repairs, Keller said.

The next meeting of the Malibu Youth Coalition is set for Dec. 2 at Malibu High School. For information, e-mail lem51@aol.com.