Nearly 27 percent of Curry County youth are disengaged, according to Wild Rivers Connect President Georgia Nowlin. She compared that to a national rate of 12 percent and Oregon’s rate of 11 percent.
“The situation is dire, but people are trying,” Career Navigator Rusty White said. “It’s going to get better.”
This month’s Curry Nonprofit Leaders Luncheon focused on opportunity youth at their June 21 meeting.
Nowlin defined opportunity or disengaged youth as young people between 16 and 24 who are not in school or employed.
At the luncheon, local leaders dedicated to helping youth outlined programs available to address young people’s needs.
White works 20 hours a week at the Curry Public Library as an outreach librarian, primarily with teens. He also coaches football and flag football and works through the Southwestern Oregon Workforce Investment Board (SOWIB) to connect youth to the skills and jobs they need to be successful and self supporting.
White said he prefers to work with middle school aged youth. “You have to change the cake before it’s baked.”
He said he works with Gold Beach Center Coordinator Karim Shumaker of Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC), Juvenile Department Director Jay Trost and Juvenile Department Counselor Karlie Wright.
“I work with individuals and systems,” White said. “With individuals, I meet with them and we determine their goals, and then we work together to make those goals a reality.”
Many students begin by seeking a GED, according to White, and he often gets them into the appropriate classes at SWOCC. Those who have completed high school develop resumes or meet with him for mock interviews.
He said Gold Beach High School (GBHS) has been increasing their Career Technical Education courses and that has helped the county work toward developing a skilled, local workforce.
More importantly, according to White, Freeman Marine (a local division of AdvanTek), GBHS and SWOCC are forming partnerships, and Freeman Marine will provide the money and expertise to revamp the high school’s metal fabrication shop.
White said GBHS teacher Mark Becker is working with Freeman Marine on this project.
SWOCC, the Gold Beach School District, White and Freeman Marine intend to integrate the career technical program with skills and equipment geared directly toward employment at Freeman Marine, according to White, and the high school program can lead directly into further coursework at SWOCC or an internship at Freeman.
Trost advocates for a return to vocational education and both he and White complimented Gold Beach and Brookings-Harbor school administrators for their progress in that direction.
He said his department works with youth who often “move from elementary school to middle school without finding direction or who create antisocial peer-associations.”
The county creates a higher risk for youth to become disengaged or form poor peer associations because it lacks prosocial leisure activities, according to Trost.
White agreed saying, “There just isn’t much for young people to do here.”
The juvenile department can only work with youth under the age of 18, but can refer them to various preventative programs, Trost said.
“We often work as a conduit and get people to appropriate programs,” he said.
The juvenile department teaches job skills, anger management and female empowerment and connects young people to mental health services through Curry Community Health.
Trost said they also help youth sign up for the Oregon Health Plan so they can access healthcare.
Juvenile Department statistic indicate 17 percent of the youth entering the department are homeless and 46 percent live with their grandparents.
Trost pointed to these statistics as evidence of Curry County families that are struggling to raise children.
“They are many, and we are few,” he said.
Wild Rivers Community Foundation’s Building Healthy Communities Director Michelle Carrillo, who works under a grant targeting Del Norte County, said “Many of our youth are stopped, slowed or just spinning.”
Her organization works directly with youth and uses empathy interviews as a base for understanding opportunity youth. These interviews allow her group to see what issues have stopped disengaged youth from accessing and using resources.
The organization provides a youth training academy in conjunction with the College of the Redwoods and offers courses to prepare students for work in ecotourism, health careers or childcare.
She said they also use job training as a summer program to keep students engaged. The summer program provides one week of training and four weeks of work, and they cover some of the costs of hiring participants as well as providing support.
Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) Gold Beach Center Coordinator Karim Shumaker said SWOCC offers transitional education courses to prepare students for the GED, further education or work.
They also offer English as a Second Language courses and collaborate with White who provides support and mentoring.
Completion of the GED can lead to Oregon Promise Scholarships, according to Shumaker, a state scholarship for Oregon students attending community college.
SWOCC also offers flagger training and preparation for the Certified Nurse Assistant Test.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org