Moffat County candidates, students exchange dialogue during forum |

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Moffat County candidates, students exchange dialogue during forum

If you go

What: Youth Leadership Team candidate forum

When: 4:30 p.m. today

Where: Moffat County School District administration building, 775 Yampa Ave.

— The meeting is open to the public.

Megan Smith, 18, recognizes one of the most important resources in Moffat County — its people.

She also recognizes that she and her counterparts on the Youth Leadership Team, a part of the Rural Collaborative for Runaway and Homeless Youth, are the voices of the future.

Six members of the Youth Leadership Team attended a forum with Moffat County candidates Tuesday afternoon, and began a dialogue on issues important to them.

The Youth Leadership Team will host another candidate forum at 4:30 p.m. today at the Moffat County School District administration building, 775 Yampa Ave.

"I think a lot of (elected officials) are not in tune with today's youth," said Smith, secretary of the Youth Leadership Team, which formed in October 2009. "But, we're their future. If we start now, we're going to learn from them and they're going to learn from us."

Paula Reed, coordinator of the collaborative and Youth Leadership Team sponsor, said the program is designed to help at-risk, homeless and runaway youth.

The leadership team was developed to encourage "positive youth development."

The motto of the team is, "The youth voice is our voice."

"We like to be well-informed," Smith said of hosting the forum.

Audrey Danner and Frank Moe, candidates for Moffat County Commission districts 2 and 3, respectively, attended the candidate forum.

Suzanne Brinks attended on behalf of her husband, Mike, who is running for county treasurer.

Jennifer Riley attended on behalf of co-worker Carol Scott, who is running for county assessor.

The students began by asking questions relating to specific job descriptions and general information on county responsibilities.

But, the talk quickly turned to youth concerns in the community.

"Obviously, we have a problem with our youth," Smith said. "Running away and drug problems … and wouldn't it be better if we had a rec center or some place where kids could go?

"It's important we have places to hang out and places to play sports or do something. We just need some place to go."

Team president Ryan Gerber, 18, then outlined a tentative plan the students formed for a student-run recreation center. They said they had begun to look into funding opportunities.

"Having a place for youth to have fun and feel safe is a big issue for our team," Gerber said.

The candidates responded with admiration for the group's effort.

"I think this is an extraordinary way to get started on a project," said Danner, adding that it was events like Tuesday's forum that would help the youth along their road to civic involvement.

But, the leadership team was beginning to learn there are often limitations and hurdles to overcome as they advocated for the youth voice.

Cole Pourier, 19, discussed his concern over rough and non-existent sidewalks as a matter of safety for the community's youth.

Smith asked what it would take to have sidewalks placed around the high school for students' safety.

They learned sidewalks are a difficult issue because they involve the use of private land. They also learned there would be significant obstacles — mainly financial — on the way to a rec center.

Still, Reed said starting a dialogue is important for the team to begin working toward its goals of a safe community for youth.

"Half of the team will be eligible to vote in November," Reed said. "They started asking me questions and I thought, 'They need to hear this from the candidates.'"

Moe said his job as a commissioner, should he be elected, would be to listen to his constituents and represent their needs and views, including the voice of the community's youth.

"I wish I had the wherewithal when I was your age to participate in something like this," he said.