This winter and spring, a dozen youth in Sweet Home, OR, participated in RDI’s inaugural Youth Rural Community Leadership program to expand their skills, meet others in the community, and learn to make a difference. The classes culminated in late May with a project to improve a local park. The group volunteered their time and joined Public Works to mulch trees, repair benches, and contribute to general beautification of Ashbrook Park.
As an additional aspect of their project, the group will collaborate with the city to install memorial benches to honor Sweet Home community leader Tim McQueary and former high school teacher Melissa Klumph.
RDI’s Executive Director Heidi Khokhar and Bilingual Program Manager Christian Vázquez-Rivera led the classes along with community trainer, Tyler Reece. Reece is teen program director for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Santiam, and as the group graduated he expressed, “We’re really excited about the future. I say the future, but really that’s a misconception. We talked a lot about how youth are always seen as the future of our community. But really, they’re part of what we’re doing now.”
The program was supported by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam, the City of Sweet Home, and community leaders Jo Ann and Tim McQueary. RDI hopes the same program will be run again in future years, and that recent graduates will help recruit and mentor future participants.