Itasca Networks for Youth (INY) is a group of after-school and out-of-school-time organizations which connect for quality youth development for local youth. Their work directly aligns with the Pathway aspiration – Every students will have access to high-quality out of school programs and activities.  

The group meets monthly to review what each organization is offering to the youth of the Itasca area, to plan for future youth programming, and to work on ways to expand quality learning beyond the classroom.

Working together, Itasca Networks for Youth seeks to constantly improve the quality and quantity of activities, classes and events available to the youth, kindergarten through 12th grade, of the Itasca area. This story recently appeared in the Scenic Range News Forum and highlights how they’re doing just that!

Deep in cINYonversation, voices filled with excitement, sharing ideas filled with possibilities, 11 area organizations brainstormed ways to better serve Itasca County youth. From education to arts to enrichment programs, members of the Itasca Networks for Youth underwent research based trainings on engaging youth through the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service.

These trainings were funded through a grant from the Blandin Foundation, and included Reflection of Youth, Youth Voice and Youth Engagement and Praise versus Encouragement, all aimed at improving the offerings to children and youth in Itasca County.

Deborah Moore from the university’s Youth Work Learning Lab evaluated the work of six local programs – Community Education’s Learning Academy, Deer River Boys and Girls Club, MacRostie Art Center, YMCA Educare, Bridges Kinship Mentoring, and Itasca Orchestra and Strings. After evaluating these organizations, the findings were brought back to all youth programmers in the county. “These sessions were a great opportunity to present organizations with professional development training and to offer staff time to think about the programs and how we’re all engaging youth across Itasca County,” explained Community Education Director, Melanie DeBay.

Engagement of youth is the driving goal for program quality. Engagement includes allowing kids the opportunities to set goals and make plans, offering opportunities to make choices based on interests, and ensuring opportunities for reflection. “Although we have great programs in the county, there’s always room for improvement, and I think we’ll start to see that immediately,” finished DeBay.

For more information about all the programs in the Itasca Network for Youth, contact Community Education at 218. 327. 5730 or visit For a complete list of activities available to Itasca area youth, visit /ItascaAreaYouth.