Basalt students petition for new youth center to ease boredom |

Basalt students petition for new youth center to ease boredom

Four bored Basalt kids are undertaking a project that might make the folks at Wal-Mart very, very happy.

The four students at Basalt High School are lobbying town leaders to help them get a youth center started in the town. It’s needed, they said, because kids who are indoor-oriented need something to do.

“The only thing to do in this valley is snowboard or ski, or go to the movies or go bowling,” said Jessica Wheeler, a junior.

“My friends and I terrorize Wal-Mart,” explained Maria Jacobsen, another junior. They get their kicks by riding around in the shopping carts and playing football in the aisles with the paper towels.

On a more serious side, the students said that “boredom is the gateway to gateway drugs.” Kids who don’t have anything to do are more likely to try drugs and alcohol. David Weaver cited statistics that show 45 percent of young women and 51 percent of young men in high school have tried pot.

The three students plus classmate Erin Craig think a youth center is the answer to the problem.

They presented their proposal Thursday in a class called Fundamentals of American Democracy. All the students in teacher Ben Bohmfalk’s elective class are studying how policies are set in U.S. government. They broke into small groups at the beginning of the semester, picked a problem, researched alternatives than proposed their own policy. The special effort is called Project Citizen.

Wheeler and her colleagues decided to earn credit while targeting a problem they would really like to solve.

To draw attention to the need for a midvalley youth center, they are circulating a petition. They are starting at the high school but plan to spread it around town.

They have identified several possible sites, including a house adjacent to the high school that’s only used for storage by the school district and as an office for the town’s recreation director. The school district owns the house.

Other possible sites are vacant land beside the school, the old Mermaids restaurant building at the El Jebel stoplight and one of the empty buildings at the old Sopris Tree Farm.

The students didn’t calculate the cost of renting, building or refurbishing a center, but they said donated labor could keep expenses down. They figured it would take about $22,000 to buy televisions, foosball tables, pool tables, a sound system and other amenities for the facility.

Youth Center’s always seem plagued by a perception that they are “square.” The Basalt kids were well aware of that and said they have ideas to keep it cool.

It’s got to have minimum rules and a high-degree of self-policing, they said. Food at a snack bar is a must, they agreed. They also want a graffiti wall for the rogue artist or writer in us all.

The kids said their effort won’t disappear just because they made a presentation Thursday. Their effort will account for a big part of their grade. They plan to keep their project alive by presenting the idea to the Basalt planning commission and the Town Council later this year.

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