A Thanksgiving walk to remember

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I have always loved Thanksgiving.

Although, these days it has become a much overlooked holiday stuffed between Halloween and Christmas, I think Thanksgiving brings together two of the greatest ideas that we can celebrate – thanks and giving.

I have much to be thankful for in my work as Youth Development Coordinator for Albert Lea Public Schools Community Education.

Email newsletter signup

It is such a fancy title for such a simple job.

In a nutshell, I get to walk alongside young people. That’s it. Sometimes, I get to make big decisions, create cool programs, write important documents and attend fancy meetings, but mostly I just walk alongside and get to be there when really cool things happen.

Let me give you a few examples:

I get to be there when 12 young people in TIDE (Teens Involved with Drug Education) perform before a packed classroom of 6th grade students and show them that it is OK to be themselves and to get involved in school. I also am there when the audience members trust the actors enough to share with them their fears and frustrations.

I get to be there when young people come to school on a Sunday night for the chance to audition to become one of 11 cast members in Project TRUST and gain the opportunity to perform in front of every 3rd grade student in Freeborn County.

It’s a play that has been utilized in Albert Lea for 14 years. I get to see these same young actors come to understand the complexity of child abuse and the need to educate early on about personal body safety.

I get to be there when a young person experiences the feeling of accomplishment one gets when they conquer the wall at the Rock Gym or works together with a group to master a teambuilding game.

I get to be there when young people meet to discuss issues in their school and community and work together to create solutions.

One group is the only bunch of young people to have the ear of the School Board.

A second group tackles the task of bringing new and creative programming to Albert Lea Community Ed.

I get to walk along as young people from ALHS Student Council create Homecoming and Winterfest events, design diversity awareness activities, address local social concerns and attempt to create a safe and fun student environment in their school.

These are very difficult tasks which are often met with criticism or apathy.

I get to be there when these students recognize their social conscience, their desire to help their world be a better place and watch as they develop their own sense of self.

These are a few of the many gifts or blessings I am thankful for this Thanksgiving and every day.

My hope is that I give more than I get and that I pass on the desire to thank and give to

every young person I have the privilege of walking with.

If you are interested in finding out more about any of the programs detailed in this article, please contact Albert Lea Community Education at 379-4834.

(Audra Nissen Boyer is the Youth Development Coordinator

at Albert Lea Community Education.)