Community partners organize youth center to meet the needs of youth in Marengo

A group of concerned community partners proudly announce the collaborative organizing and opening of the Marengo Youth Center. The Center, scheduled to open January 6, 2020, is a combined effort of local citizens, businesses, and organizations in the Marengo area. The group started meeting months ago to discuss growing concerns among our community’s youth and their unmet needs. These discussions led to a consensus that youth in Marengo needed an alternative to sports and other typical extra curricular school activities. In addition, food insecurity was identified as a top concern among middle school and high school students.

The Marengo Youth Center was born from a pool of big-hearted community members who dream of a financially secure and environmentally safe community for Marengo. The youth are the future of the community.

Dr. Patricia Gilbaugh

“I wanted to be part of this project because I believe our youth is one of Marengo’s greatest assets and all youth deserve to feel cared for, nurtured and supported by their community. Having a safe and encouraging place to go after school is a way to keep our youth safe and healthy. It also allows an avenue where any food insecure youth can have a nutritious meal,” said Janet Findlater of the First United Methodist Church and community volunteer.

Dr. Patricia Gilbaugh was invited to the collaborative group as a potential resource to help the youth center get established and oversee the programming. “Ever since I was a freshman in college, organizing a youth center has been a goal of mine. For me, it was not a question of if, but rather how this youth center would come to fruition,” Dr. Gilbaugh shared.

Dr. Gilbaugh developed a program in 1992 called People Reaching Out to Youth (PRO Youth) for a class assignment. She was eager to resurrect the work and made revisions to the paper in order to strengthen the program’s approach to meet the current needs, including the food insecurity concern facing many local families.

“The social problems may have changed over the past three decades, but the core need — the need to belong and to feel important to adults and the community remain constant,” Gilbaugh believes.

Findlater believes, “[The youth center ] is a way that like-minded people (those who care about our youth) can come together and make a difference. Anytime we help create a healthier population, it will improve our community. It can also create a bridge between our youth and adult communities which can build mutual trust, genuine affection and understanding.”

Lisa Crow, Pastor for the United Methodist Church, supports the youth center because, “This youth center will provide opportunities for youth who are not currently involved in other after-school activities to learn, grow and belong. This program will provide an opportunity for our community members to share their knowledge and gifts with the next generation. With the help of their community, our youth can reach their potential and excel in everything that they set out to do. It will also provide an opportunity to become a part of a robotics team, a program that isn’t offered in the Iowa Valley School District.”

Part of the purpose for the Marengo Youth Center is to offer STEM learning activities, including a community based robotics team. Mentored by former First Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team co-captain, Dylan Weaver, the Youth Center hopes to generate interest among youth to develop a strong, competitive team for robotics. Weaver is the youth center’s only paid employee. His primary purpose is to coordinate the youth and structure the after-school activities to include socialization opportunities and job skills development.

“Most people do not realize that robotics is much more than building a robot. It involves learning how to work as a team, planning and coordinating work efforts, building a business plan, strategic planning, and learning how to work with mentoring adults.” Weaver is a graduate of Benton Community and actively participated in robotics while in high school. Other robotics team members will be volunteering their time to assist the Marengo Youth Center as student interest dictates or grows.

Benton Community students will be present at the Grand Opening event on December 11, 2019 to provide a demonstration of FTC robotics. The Grand Opening open house celebration is expected a large crowd of youth and community members. Middle school and high school youth are encouraged to attend from 3 to 5 p.m., with the community invited to attend 5 to 6:30 p.m. Refreshments, beverages, and sandwiches will be served throughout the event. To keep the youth center operating, more volunteers, donations of food items or deliveries of evening meals, and monetary donations for operating expenses are needed throughout the year. To learn more, please email marengoyouth@gmail.com or call at 319-642-3032.

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