Mendocino County Youth Summit
By Laura Clark
The Ukiah Daily Journal
Youth violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and school safety were a few of the issues identified and
addressed by some 150 students from high schools throughout the county at a youth summit
Friday at Ridgewood Ranch in Willits.
Eric Rowles of the Youth Leadership Institute in San Francisco facilitated the event, which had
youth happy to stand in a corner.
But the Mendocino County Youth Summit wasn’t all fun and games.
“This is just the beginning of youth philanthropy in Mendocino County,” said Dennis Aseltyne,
Mendocino County Office of Education administrator and coordinator of student programs and
“This is a yearlong event,” he said. “We are going to sustain this effort throughout the year,” he
On Friday, the students were to address five areas of concern relevant to themselves and their
community and then develop plans of action. Following the event they would be given further
assistance by the Youth Leadership Institute in San Francisco and then take their plans before
June 30 to the Mendocino County Youth Council and seek funding for their proposals, Aseltyne
At that point, the MCYC will vote on the proposals and decide which ones to fund. The
proposals approved will become active in August and remain so for a year, Aseltyne said.
In other words, “Students will be able to write proposals and make a difference in their
community,” he said. “This is a feel-good event, but it’s an event with purpose and it has
substance and depth to it. We are calling these students to take action in their communities ... I
think this is the future heartbeat of Mendocino County myself,” Aseltyne said.
“Here is your chance ... What do you think? What do you believe?” Rowles asked his young
During this interactive activity, students stood in one of four corners of the facility based upon
their individual responses and opinions to several controversial statements. One corner was
designated for those who agreed with the statement, one corner for those who disagreed with the
statement, one for those who somewhat agreed, and one for those who somewhat disagreed.
“Green is the very best color,” Rowles began.
After hearing this statement students scattered around the room to the corner of their choice.
“Green is the very best color. What do you say?” Rowles asked a student in the corner
designated for those who disagree with his statement.
“No. Because red is the very best color,” the student answered.
In the corner designated for those who agree with the statement, a student said, “Yes, because
Ireland is all about green.”
After a couple of warm-up questions, Rowles got down to the heart of the matter, so to speak.
“Drugs and alcohol are a big problem at my school, or if I am not in school, in my community,”
Students responded: “It’s a big problem in my school because almost everyone I know has done
drugs and sneaks alcohol into school. It’s all over the place,” said a Ukiah High student in the
Another student, from River Community School, said he disagrees because “Everyone at our
school is on probation so we don’t have anything to worry about.”
“It’s a big problem in our society, but the main problem is lack of information about drugs,” said
“I feel safe in my school ... or in my community,” was another statement made by Rowles. After
hearing this, the vast majority of students went to the agrees corner, meaning they feel safe.
“We work a lot on developing virtue in our city and our school ... we treat each other equal ... we
focus on good karma,” said a girl who feels safe and attends the City of 10,000 Buddhas’
Developing Virtue Secondary Girl’s School.
However, a few disagreed and said they do not feel safe at school.
“I disagree because there was a stabbing that was gang related ... it’s just not safe,” said a
concerned Ukiah High student.
The four corners game was followed by an activity called “If we were in charge.” This table-
based activity had participants brainstorming ways that young people would address solutions to
the following five issues of concern: preventing youth violence in the community, preventing
youth drug and alcohol use/abuse, ensuring school safety, ensuring youth jobs and work
opportunities, and ensuring effective youth services.
A skate park, computer labs and internet cafes, health services for birth control and AIDS
prevention, better school lunches, a food drive for teens not getting enough food from home, and
safe houses where youth could go were among the many suggestions offered by the students in
charge of ensuring effective youth services.
Gay/lesbian awareness day, relationship groups at schools, zero tolerance punishment, more
after school programs, better school security, mandatory counseling for youth who get in trouble,
and parental education about youth violence “because you learn from your parents,” were among
two poster pages full of solutions offered by the students in charge of preventing youth violence
in the community.