Fostering a Vision: Organizers seek home for foster youth near Donner Summit
Standing over nearly 20,000 acres of land just west of Donner Summit, Michael Rogers paints a portrait of his vision to create a sustainable community that will integrate foster youth with outdoor recreation and the preservation of natural resources.Rogers said he envisions an eco-friendly community where foster youth can live and work in leadership roles, such as managing recreational activities, overseeing conservation efforts, providing cultural information and learning economic strategies to better prepare for the future.We seek to integrate the need to mentor youth, find salvation in wildness and develop a generation of leaders capable of addressing the pressing needs of our community now, Rogers said. The parcel is part of more than 140,000 acres of Pacific Gas andamp; Electric-owned land in the Sierra Nevada, which under a bankruptcy settlement agreement was allocated to The Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council to implement a conservation plan for the land, Rogers said.In 2007, a group of about 40 community members met at Rogers Shinneyboo Creek Cabin Resort on Donner Summit to look at the Western Slope and begin to imagine what might be possible with the opportunity from PGandamp;E, Rogers president of the Teachers Association for Outdoor and Adventure Education said. Out of the meeting came the Puzzle Peace project an endeavor to establish a sustainable, holistic community that will serve as training grounds for transitioning foster youth while fulfilling the Stewardship Councils conservation, sustainable forestry, cultural resource protection and outdoor recreation objectives for the PGandamp;E land, Rogers said.On May 16, non-profit foster agency Mountain Circle Family Services and Rogers outdoor education organization submitted a grant proposal for $120,000 to the Stewardship Council outlining the Puzzle Peace objectives, Rogers said. Our process will uncover needs, collaborators, opportunities and possible solutions that blend innovative youth mentoring and leadership programs, sustainable community development and ecological stewardship, Rogers said. The grant would provide funds to begin the intricate planning process for the community vision, and would allow the partnership between Mountain Circle and Adventure Education to branch out to other interested area organizations to develop a business plan, Rogers said.The final strategies, programs and goals are to come from the planning process and cannot be articulated fully in advance of it, he said.Despite the project being in the preliminary stages of planning, Rogers said his vision includes all the elements of a community, but designing it from the ground up.It would be a place where you can live, shop, work and play all within a five-minute walk away, Rogers added. At the heart of the project would be the desire to tackle the regions ongoing lack of foster care by providing a place for foster youth to gain leadership skills, self-esteem and job readiness, said Shauna Rossington, executive director of Mountain Circle. Rossington said she envisions a community for foster youth age 18 or older who are emancipated from the foster care system and are making the transition into society.Sixty-five percent of kids are homeless or in jail within six months out of foster care, Rossington said. This could be a step in the right direction. Theres definitely a major hurdle to ensure these kids dont end up on the streets or in prison.Grant funds could be allocated within the next few months, and if the coalition received the funding, the members will spend 12 to 18 months developing a feasibility study and business plan for the innovative vision. There are low expectations for what foster youth can accomplish, and I want to help turn that around, Rogers said. Its a big, broad idea, but were taking a system-wide approach. We have to bring in all the different elements and look at how they interrelate.
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