By Emma Siepmann

Within the 32,000 people living in McMinnville, it is no surprise that some would be struggling to get by, come to school every day, or even put food on the table. In many cities, including Portland, organizations have appeared with the mission of supporting these at-risk students. These youth outreach centers serve to help kids and teens get on the right path for their futures by assisting them in developing healthy behaviors, life skills and a sense of purpose. These programs have been seen to be hugely influential in preventing drop-outs, runaways, and teen pregnancies for high-risk teens who may not be receiving this support at home. A local youth outreach center would help all kids and teens to become motivated and hopeful, and for a price that all families can afford: free. So why does McMinnville not have one of these?

McMinnville has many lower-class families and in these circumstances children either end up taking on a parenting role in their household or heading to the streets. Centers like Youth Outreach Services (YOS) in Chicago, IL strive to assist these teens and help them stay off the streets in order to create the life they want for themselves. YOS provides drug and pregnancy prevention workshops, job opportunities, foster, transitional and independent living resources, and 24/7 crisis intervention as just a few of their programs to help Chicago’s youth age 12-21. Many of these incredible resources would be very helpful to McMinnville’s population as well, raising graduation rates and lowering unplanned and teen pregnancies.

Now this area is not completely out of options. There is YCAP’s Youth Outreach program, which is based in Newberg. This provides many services similar to the previously mentioned centers, but Newberg is often too far to travel for the people who would use these services the most. Among many other problems that these people are facing, being unable to travel to get assistance should not be one.

McMinnville is in need of a centrally located, well organized youth outreach center to help the percentage of our population who would greatly benefit from programs like sexual education, runaway and homelessness assistance, and drug and alcohol prevention.  Many of these students also do not have positive adult role models in their homes, so centers like these are able to match them up with a mentor who can guide them on a healthy path and help them learn crucial life skills. These programs have been shown to make a greatly positive impact on today’s youth, which is why building a youth outreach center could only help many of our students to get them on a path to success.