Story last updated at 2:32 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 2002

Youth group planning adventure across the bay
by Carey James
Staff Writer

Now in its fifth year, the Homer-based group Choices for Teens continues to reach out to local youth with activities, resources, and recently, the second glossy edition of Teen Times.

New on the organization's calendar this year are three free camps on the south side of Kachemak Bay aiming to encourage environmental and cultural understanding by working on trails, kayaking and connecting with teens from Nanwalek and Port Graham.

The details of activities will depend on future discussions with the youth, said executive director Sabrina Hillstrand, but the 30 youth will likely work with Alaska State Parks trail maintenance crews as well as explore cultural connections and focus on teamwork and conflict resolution.

"The idea is to give kids something to do as an alternative to hanging out," Hillstrand said. "A lot of youth just don't know the history of Alaska and the culture of Alaska Natives. The goal is to provide more exposure to cultures and traditions and become more sensitive and comfortable with each other."

The idea for the camps, as with many projects Choices for Teens is involved with, originated from youth, Hillstrand said.

Each camp will be five days long, and will include 10 youth in three separate age groups, which will be determined by those interested in participating. Half of each group will come from the Native villages, and half from the Homer area. Camps will be held from June 18-22, July 18-22 and August 8-13 and registration is first come, first serve.

The Team Venture camps include a collaborative effort with the Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary, the 4-H National Council, Community Mental Health and the Department of Human Services.

In addition to the camps, Choices for Teens recently released its second edition of Teen Times, a magazine written mostly by youth from the Homer area and circulated all over the state and even nationwide, Hillstrand said. This year, a $2 price was attached to the magazine to help cover the cost of printing and software.

"It's a broad base of what youth are interested in, what they think," Hillstrand said. "These are their stories."

The magazine, as well as other Choices for Teens activities, aim to combat the peer pressure teens may feel to look and act a certain way.

"We are trying to counter those messages, because they are not building up their self esteem," Hillstrand said. "But trying to counter that billion-dollar industry is pretty difficult."

Anyone can submit a story to be published in the next edition of Teen Times, and stories can be submitted anonymously, she said. Submissions may be sent to Teen Times, Box 1013, Homer, Alaska, 99603 or e-mailed through the organization's Web site at choicesforteens.org. The magazine may be purchased at various locations around town as well as at the Teen Center on Lake Street and the Choices for Teens office 3692 Ben Walter's Lane, Suite 3.

Youth Appreciation Week is coming up June 24-29, and many activities and events from the past are planned, including the carnival at the Homer High School parking lot, the Fish for Fun day, and the Beach Day with sand sculpture and a campfire.

"It's a good way to kick off the summer," Hillstrand said.

In addition, the Teen Center has regular dances on Friday nights from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. and Choices for teens works with teens to help them develop job skills and find job placement as well as offers resources for parents on connecting with their teens.

In the future, Hillstrand said the organization hopes to plan events more that connect youth from the surrounding areas with teens in Homer.

"Our goal is to reduce underage drinking and other destructive decisions," she said. "We do that by providing teens with the best prevention and intervention resources, support and alternative activities."

For more information on Choices for Teens programs, camps or other activities, call 235-4991.

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