Itasca Networks for Youth was formed in the late 2000’s to develop a collaboration or network for out-of-school time providers to share programming that was offered in different organizations. Organizations felt a network would be beneficial to help reduce program scheduling conflicts, create partnerships, develop networking opportunities, increase awareness of local programs and continue to support youth beyond Invest Early™ .

Longtime Itasca Networks for Youth partner Duane Geisler, Youth for Christ Director, and Deanna Winge, AEOA Director work together during a YPQA Training

Longtime Itasca Networks for Youth partner Duane Geisler, Youth for Christ Director, and Deanna Winge, AEOA Director work together during a YPQA Training

To support Itasca Networks for Youth’s work, Johnson was hired in the winter of 2017 in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension, the Blandin Foundation, and SPARK, as the Community Engagement Coordinator. This position is responsible to provide support for Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) observations, discovery meetings and trainings for all Itasca Networks for Youth partners.

Regular meetings with program partners

On the third Wednesday of each month, Itasca Networks for Youth partners gather at the Blandin Foundation to network and collaborate. Current Itasca Networks for Youth members include AEOA, Deer River Boys & Girls Club, Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids and Greenway, Boy Scouts, Camp Hiawatha, Campfire Minnesota-Camp Bluewater, Grand Rapids Area Library, GRIP Coalition, Itasca Area Schools Collaborative, Community Education, Itasca County 4-H,  Itasca Family YMCA , Itasca Orchestra & Strings, Itasca Community College-Upward Bound, MacRostie Art Center, North East Minnesota Office of job Training (NEMOJT), North Homes Child & Family Services, Community Presbyterian Church, and Youth for Christ.

Duane Giesler, Youth for Christ Director, and long-time partner in Itasca Networks for Youth says, “Those who gather for the monthly meetings, leave their titles at the door and are willing to roll up their sleeves and say, okay, what can we do together and how can we be more effective in our work. What do we need to focus on as a group?”

SPARK has a fund at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation.  If you are interested in supporting the work of SPARK financially, you can donate to SPARK. Visit the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation website.

SPARK is committed to ensuring every young person in the Itasca Area has what they need to be successful.  Positive, well-rounded, and trustworthy relationships begin in the home with parenting adults and siblings.  In addition, young people need strong relationships with friends, teachers, employers, youth workers, neighbors, religious leaders, and others.  A vast body of research highlights the importance of these relationships in young people’s lives, guiding them on their pathways to a positive future.