Youth summits bridge gaps between generations

Contributed photo / Grayson Wildsmith Peter Lindsey rebuilding the mailbox for the elderly couple.
Contributed photo / Grayson Wildsmith
Peter Lindsey rebuilds a mailbox for an elderly Bainbridge Island couple.

An elderly couple were in a bind and needed help immediately.

After discovering their mailbox had been smashed during a weekend prank, the couple called Bainbridge Youth Services seeking help because they couldn’t get their mail delivered to them and they were too feeble to fix the box themselves.

Bainbridge High juniors Peter Lindsey and Grayson Wildsmith were recruited by the agency to donate five hours on a Saturday to rebuild the mailbox.

“They had to mix the cement, place the new mailbox beam in the cement and then fasten the mailbox to the beam,” said Marina Cofer-Wildsmith, executive director of Bainbridge Youth Services, which is housed in the high school. “All this done without any spotlight on their work. No community service hours expected, no payment … they did it just because. The couple were so grateful.”

Cofer-Wildsmith shared the story of Lindsey and Wildsmith on the heels of the successful three session Healthy Youth Summit, which was sponsored by Bainbridge Youth Services, Raising Resilience, Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island and the Bainbridge Island School District.

After attracting more than 60 participants and community leaders for the first stakeholders meeting in September, the first summit in November garnered 171 participants. The next three-hour meeting in January had 168 participants and the third in March tallied 101 people. More than 50 youth participated in all three events, but approximately 200 youth voices helped shape the direction of the conversations as a result of youth surveys.

The meetings meant a great deal to Dave Cinamon, whose daughter attends Bainbridge High.

“I left each event with a feeling of relief, happiness and optimism, having learned more about this stage of my daughter’s life,” said Cinamon, an architect on the island. “I loved each event – being with other parents, and listening to great speakers and educators explain how a teenager’s brain is developing during these years.”

Bainbridge School District Superintendent Faith Chapel said she found the meetings “very effective.”

“Over the years, I’ve participated in many discussions about adolescents,” Chapel said. “Without a doubt, these were the most constructive and substantive sessions I’ve experienced. Each segment was unique in its format and content, and the speakers and facilitators were very effective.”

Cezanne Allen, board chair for Raising Resilience, and Cofer-Wildsmith said the motivation for the Healthy Youth Summit was simple: engaging both youth and adults. After starting with teens telling them through survey data that “we aren’t happy” and that adults “put too much pressure on us making a decision for the future,” the teens moved to “give us a voice” and “please redefine success – congratulate us for who we are, not what we do.”

“Our expectations for these summits were more than met, as we engaged all facets of our community and built momentum for ongoing conversation and action,” Allen said. “The dialogue between youth and adults in the room opened up rich understanding, trust and respect on both sides. Common community-driven values were articulated and 100 committed adults and youth worked together to design action steps to move our community from good to great.”

As a result of the summits, Cofer-Wildsmith said she hoped to implement methods to improve the way island adults “engage, empower and listen to our youth.”

“We are trying to establish a community movement where we look at how we behave and interact with our youth differently – supporting their strengths and less focusing on their deficits,” Cofer-Wildsmith said.

Allen said perceptions between Bainbridge adults and youth have changed following the meetings and that the conversation will continue.

“We are working to support the action groups that emerged and to empower and bring leaders from a wide variety of sectors together to create a common agenda for action to support healthy youth development,” Allen said. “We will plan a follow-up summit next year to consolidate our learnings and track our progress.”


Here’s some of the achievements that came as a result of the three community Healthy Youth Summits:

— Bainbridge Police Chief Matthew Hamner starting a Youth Advisory Committee.

— Bainbridge Island Arts & Humanities Council are planning to add a youth board member.

— Senior Center discussion youth technology mentorship for seniors.

— Parent-driven youth mentor program established.

— Bainbridge Youth Services launching a paid summer internship program.


***Editor’s Note: This story was published in the April 11 Islander section, but since it wasn’t available online we are posting it to this blog as well.

Bainbridge Islander, Schools

About Ethan Fowler

Ethan Fowler has more than 20 years of journalism experience with 19 years of daily and weekly newspaper experience covering news, features and sports, as well as being an editor for 14 of those years. He has won several writing awards over the years in Washington state, Virginia, Texas and Georgia, including award-winning investigative journalism. Fowler was paid by the Review & Herald Publishing Association in 2009 to co-author a book, "Brushed Back: The Story of Trevor Bullock," with his wife. The book details the real life of a top minor league pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and his Christian faith. "Brushed Back" has sold more than 2,000 copies since its release.