Friday, February 11, 2005

McCleary recognized as advocate for youth

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By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer

Angenie McCleary

Second in series of 9

On any given afternoon the HUB activity center at the Community Campus in Hailey bustles with teenagers playing pool, working on computers or conversing on colorful couches. The activity center brought to fruition a desire among teenagers to establish a teen specific gathering place. The gathering spot and an extensive list of youth programming exist thanks to the help of a dedicated voice who advocates for valley teenagers.

"I see my purpose as working with youth to express what their needs are, and to oversee how the needs can be met, Angenie McCleary, director of Youth Adult Konnections, explained.

Guided by their needs, McCleary works tirelessly for valley youth. For her dedication to youth oriented programs, McCleary earned the 2005 Youth Advocate of the Year award given by the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau.

Nearly six years ago, McCleary arrived to the Wood River Valley fresh from Middlebury College with a desire to make a difference in the community.

"I knew that if I found something rewarding, I would stay," she said.

She found that "something" as a facilitator for teens. In November 2000, McCleary signed on as the first AmeriCorps volunteer in the Wood River Valley. The AmeriCorps position entailed working for the Blaine County Youth Partnership, an organization that brings together adult leaders of the community to improve the lives of youth.

In her first month of service, McCleary established Blaine County Teen Advisory Council or BC TAC. The council encourages younger residents to involve themselves in youth driven projects.

In 2001, McCleary connected the adult and youth organizations under an umbrella organization known as Youth Adult Konnections or YAK! Now, she is the director of YAK!, an organization that works to build healthy relationships between adults and youth by offering an extensive list of services.

"Youth identify a need in the community. We come up with a service to meet that," McCleary said.

The services implemented through McCleary's leadership include programs such as a new online community for youth, educational panels to tackle teen health issues, a teen and community service job board, a youth radio show and art evenings at the HUB.

"We are giving youth a voice and letting them have control," she commented.

The nature of programming changes according to the teens' desires. This spring YAK! plans to offer a panel to tackle world event issues. The anticipated program came from a request of BC TAC members.

"If we didn't go to the students, I'm not sure we would be able to meet their needs," McCleary remarked.

McCleary's dedication to student needs ensures the availability of teen programming and distinguishes her as a vital advocate for youth in the valley.

NEXT: Kingsley Murphy, Environmental Advocate of the Year

Reservations now being taken for the 8th Annual Community Awards Dinner

The 8th Annual Community Awards Night will be held at the River Run Lodge on March 18. Social hour will begin at 7 p.m. and dinner and the awards ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. Local veteran entertainer Chris Millspaugh will perform "The Way I See It" after the awards ceremony. Tickets are $45 per person. Call Angela Shetler at 725-2103 or e-mail your reservation request to ashetler@visitsunvalley.com.




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