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It's a great forum for other young people to come together and express... what they're concerned about...

Young Thousand Islanders gather to create vision of region's future

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The Thousand Islands Young Leaders Organization held a summit last Friday to gather ideas from young people about their vision for the future of the Thousand Islands Region. The group was founded in April 2008 to help improve quality of life for young Northern New Yorkers, and to get them more involved in their communities. Joanna Richards was at the summit and has this report.

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It's just after lunchtime in a ballroom at the Clayton Opera House and about a dozen people in their 20s and 30s are gathered around tables discussing life in the Thousand Islands region.

Facilitator: Ah, we've got strengths – natural beauty, recreational activities, but we don't have enough

Huge yellow sheets of paper are taped up to the walls, with titles like “Strengths,” “Weaknesses” and “Opportunties.”

Facilitator: OK, good point, good point.

Alicia Dewey is chairwoman of the organization, and works in the town of Clayton supervisor's office. She says this group has gathered today to start putting together a young people's checklist for improving life in the Thousand Islands Region. 

And we invited people to come and say, you know, what's your vision of the future of our region? Where, how can we strengthen our local economy, our community development process? And how can we get young people involved in that process?

The turnout is modest, but those who attended engaged intensely with many ideas about encouraging change and growth in the region.

Kristina Ives works for Coyote Moon Vineyards in the town of Clayton, one of a handful of up-and-coming wineries in the region. She says she's interested in seeing more agricultural development here.

Since we're in such a heavy ag district, there's so much potential to create economic development, jobs, training – the list goes on.

Ives praised the event and the Thousand Islands Young Leaders Organization, or TIYLO, as great vehicles for young people to get involved in community planning.

You know it's a great forum for other young people to come together and express ideas and what they're concerned about in their communities.

Addie Russell is a New York state Assemblywoman from Theresa. She said she attended both to listen to her young constituents' concerns and to contribute her own ideas as a young adult in the region.

Well what really made me feel good is the view that this area is a great area to start a business, that there's tremendous opportunity here, um, and positive feelings about the area, from the perspective of a young person.

The seasonal nature of life and business in the Thousand Islands came up again and again as the day progressed. Many young people want businesses to stay open longer into the fall and winter, and to offer later hours on weekends. They're also looking for more recreational acitvities throughout the year.

The papers on the wall represent a big “to do” list. Dewey says today is just a start.

I think we just wanted to come up with some – a common picture of what we see our present and our future looking like in the region from the perspective of young people who live and work here. 

Dewey is planning to collect and organize the group's ideas into a document that can be shaped further, perhaps in a future planning session, and then shared with area organizations.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm Joanna Richards in Clayton.

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