Reason #7: Empowering youth

Categories:Projects
Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma

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Reason #7: An all-ages art venue will provide an opportunity to empower the youth of Three Rivers through youth-led events and concerts.
I went to college for two years in a small rural town in Iowa, so I know what it’s like to dredge up places to hang out in a place that shuts down after 8:00 pm. Many evenings, we ended up driving a half hour to a truck stop in Le Mars, self-described ice cream capital of the world, to drink bad coffee and eat rubbery fried eggs. In Three Rivers, teen-agers often end up hanging out at Meijer, a 24-hour branch of a local superstore chain. Not unrelated to the poor selection of hangout spots is the fact that St. Joseph County, where Three Rivers is located, has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state.
How might this reality change if local teen-agers had the opportunity to work alongside adult mentors to plan and organize their own weekend events? What if the adult mentors weren’t just planning activities to distract teens from reckless behavior, but instead empowered teens with the skills and vision to create their own series with local bands? We seek to operate from the premise that teenagers are intelligent human beings with creative ideas and the capacity to develop skills and build community alongside their elders. We also believe that instilling an appreciation and sense of ownership for the arts at a young age will have long-term mutual benefits for teenagers and existing arts institutions in our community, like the Riviera Theatre and the Carnegie Center. Let the shows begin!