ILWACO - At Hilltop Auditorium in Ilwaco on Thursday, May 6, the WellSpring Community Network coordinated a Town Hall where the community met to discuss the future of the Peninsula, especially addressing healthy ways to interact with children and teens. The sunny evening's festivities began as a large gathering of community members, representing all ages and walks of life, mingled and enjoyed a free and delicious southwest themed dinner.

Interactive conversations continued as the kaleidoscope of community members migrated to the auditorium and were taken through a series of interactive questions. Attendees were given handheld remote "clickers" and were able to answer the questions posed with the click of a button. A majority of the discussion related to patterns of behavior that exist on the Peninsula that strongly influence our youth. The answers given by the audience were compared to a similar survey completed by over 200 Peninsula teens. The exercise highlighted the difference between perceptions of youth versus the community at large.

Renowned speaker Clay Roberts returned this year to continue facilitating conversations about creating a community that focuses on modeling positive behaviors (assets) that are critical for the health and wellbeing of our youth. It has been found that children that have a majority of the 40 Developmental Assets typically become adults who are emotionally stable, have healthy social skills, and refrain from substance abuse.

Roberts focused specifically on three of the 40 Development Assets and tied much of the discussion to underage drinking, which is one of the biggest risk factors for Peninsula youth.

The first asset discussed was "positive family communication," with an emphasis on talking with youth about their areas of interest so that stronger relationships develop and communication is increased. If a boy likes computers, then talk about computers. If a girl likes sports, then talk about her basketball team. These conversations open doors to other topics that build communication and encourage healthy behavioral choices.

"Family boundaries" was the next asset addressed. It is important that families, schools, churches, and other organizations have clear rules and consequences. It also emphasizes that kids do best when they feel secure and their activities and whereabouts are monitored.

The third asset was "positive peer influence." If kids interact with peers who model responsible behavior, they are more likely to behave responsibly themselves. This includes the need for children to have opportunities to play and interact in safe, well-supervised settings.

Liz Rogers, a parent who attended the town hall, conveyed, "I enjoyed it a lot. I liked the speaker and he is passionate about what he does ... I liked that everyone got involved together."

A student exclaimed, "The activities were fun, the food was great, and there was a wide spectrum of people who interacted at the meeting, from young children to grandparents."

Geri Marcus, a parent and active Wellspring Coalition member, stated, "I loved how it built on the previous year and appreciated the interactive component. I like Clay Roberts, his manner of delivery and his real-life examples ... by referring to his own family and experiences of working with kids. I hope we can keep him coming back!"

A follow-up town hall gathering will take place on Tuesday, July 13 so please save the date. The details will be announced on fliers around the community, in the Chinook Observer, and on the WellSpring Community Network website at (www.wellspringpacific.com). Please join WellSpring Community Network if you desire for the Peninsula to be a healthier, addiction free community! Meetings take place the second Tuesday of every month, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and are currently held at the Pacific County Administration Building at 7013 Sandridge Road, Long Beach. Please call 783-1090 for more information.

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