Youth in grades 7-12 who attend school in Bigfork, Hill City, Warba and Nashwauk- Keewatin recently participated in a pilot survey that will be taken by all 7-12 grade students in the seven-district area this fall. The goal of the “Student Voice” survey is to bring to light the perceptions of young people about how they experience their community.

This story by Tony Potter of the Hibbing Daily Tribune reports how the community of Nashwauk is listening and responding to what their young people are saying. Councilor Greg Heyblom spoke about one startling perception revealed by the survey:

“As a parent of young children, I find this disturbing that they have this negative outlook of the community,” he said referring to the survey results indicating the majority of students feeling disrespected by other community members. “ … If the youth do not feel valued by the community, do you think they will want to stay here after they graduate? It is an eye opener, and everyone in the community should come together to support this.” 

by Tony Potter Staff Writer tpotter@hibbingdailytribune.net

NASHWAUK — Students in the Nashwauk-Keewatin (N-K) School District have received a boost of support from a group of community members.

The Nashwauk City Council last week agreed to allow a youth program designed for teenagers to use city facilities for a variety of community events.

The request was spearheaded by N-K School Board Director Mary Jane Damjanovich, a member of the committee that recently conducted the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success survey, to find ways to help students become successful members of the community.

“We want to initiate a program so kids feel like part of the community,” she told the council. “We would like to use your rec center this summer.”

Damjanovich noted the committee is aware there is a summer rec program held for younger kids in the morning, adding the teen-targeted program would run in the afternoon.

“It would be something to do and somewhere to go,” she said.

Students came up with a list of possible activities, including: dances, cards and board game night, dodgeball, kickball and movie night.

“They are not huge projects, but something for them to look forward to,” Damjanovich added. “And adult supervisors would be provided.”

Mayor Bill Hendricks said he is in favor of the idea, then asked how often activities would be held.

Once a month to start with, Damjanovich said.

“We do hope it expands,” she said. ”But right now it is just for the kids in our district to have a little fun.”

Councilor Brian Gangl said he sees no problem with allowing the program to use the rec center.

Hendricks agreed.

“I really think it can work out,” he said.

The program addresses a need for both the students and the community, said Councilor Greg Heyblom.

“As a parent of young children, I find this disturbing that they have this negative outlook of the community,” he said referring to the survey results indicating the majority of students feeling disrespected by other community members. “ … If the youth do not feel valued by the community, do you think they will want to stay here after they graduate? It is an eye opener, and everyone in the community should come together to support this.”

Damjanovich questioned if Heyblom was willing to volunteer his time.

“Sure, I’m OK with that,” Heyblom answered.

Councilor Mary Fragnito-Smith asked when the program would start.

The committee is looking at holding a dance before the Fourth of July, Damjanovich said.

The city tried that last year, and it did not go too well, Hendricks said.

“That is because they do not want to be cooped up on a beautiful day,” Heyblom said.

Councilor Ed Bolf suggested the youth dance be held at the pavilion near the campgrounds.

Any time a facility is needed, the committee can contact City Clerk Pam LaBine to have the arrangements made, Hendricks said.

A motion to support the youth program and to allow it to use city facilities for activities was made my Fragnito-Smith and seconded by Heyblom. It was unanimously approved.

In other business, councilors:

• Approved hiring Ace Construction to repair steps at Nashwauk City Hall for $21,500. The project includes replacing the side steps, repairing the American Legion entrance and installing new handrails on the front steps.

• Approved a recommendation from the police commission to set a May 29 start date for new police officer Derek Peterlin, who has completed all requirements.

• Approved a recommendation from the zoning commission to extend the building permit that was granted to Theodore Squillace for the construction of a new house in the 200 block of Deering Avenue. The permit was originally issued on Aug. 4, 2010, and had expired Aug. 10, 2013.

• Approved reinstating Bill Williams as an emergency medical technician.