Program plans zoo outing for area youth

ESCANABA — The local program, Engaging Youth in the Community, is having its second outing this summer at the De Young Zoo in Wallace, Tuesday, Aug. 13. This free activity is for children from ages eight to 18. Kids who have submitted their permission form will be picked up and dropped off at each of the following places and times: Webster Kindergarten Center, noon to 4:25 p.m., Escanaba Upper Elementary, 12:15 to 4:15 p.m., and Nah Tah Wahsh/Hannahville, 12:45 to 3:45 p.m. A second bus will leave the Gladstone Middle School at 12:15 p.m. and return to the school at 4:15 p.m.

Permission forms can be picked up at the following schools’ lunch rooms: Escanaba Upper Elementary, Webster Kindergarten Center, Nah Tah Wahsh/Hannahville, Gladstone Middle School, or the main office at the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District (DSISD). Permission forms must be dropped off at the same places by Aug. 12.

Engaging Youth in the Community stems from a community task force created in 2018 and facilitated by the DSISD. Administration at local schools have been addressing a wide variety of student behaviors and mental health issues during previous school years. The task force intends to make the community the best place residents want to be.

“We are working to improve mental health in Delta and Schoolcraft counties,” said Trent Bellingar.

Problems with students are noticeably more significant, and according to DSISD Superintendent Doug Leisenring, local educators are feeling overwhelmed trying to support the students and their families. Throughout the area reports of the same type of problems are happening outside of the school system, noted Leisenring. There is a concern not enough people are in the area to address the needs of the community.

Bellingar realized there were not many activities in Delta and Schoolcraft counties for area youth between the ages of eight and 18 so he, along with others, created the Engaging Youth in the Community program to provide opportunities during the summer.

“There are not a lot of programs going on for those ages,” said Bellingar. “We created ‘Engaging Youth in the Community’ to provide free opportunities during the summer. In our first event in July, we brought just over 60 kids to the DNR Pocket Park on the fairgrounds. The kids got to fish, shoot targets, and practice archery. Most of the kids didn’t know it was there and now they do. They know it’s open for free and they can go back there any time.”

Bellingar is creating a calendar listing all activities youth from ages eight to 18 would be interested in. He hopes others will inform him of their events so it can be added to the calendar and there will only be one place to look. Activities in Delta and Schoolcraft counties can be brought forward to Bellingar’s attention and placed on the calendar to easily find what type of activities are coming up.

“Anyone who is interested in helping the ISD and volunteering to improve mental health to provide opportunities for children in the age group can contact me or the other task force members,” said Bellingar.

Contact Task Force members Trent Bellingar 786-9300, Kelly Arnold 280-0188, or Steve Howes 241-2682, for additional information and questions or concerns. If there is rain during the activity, the trip will be cancelled. Only 60 kids will be able to participate. Male and female chaperons who have passed a background check will be in attendance during the trip. Make sure that somebody is at the school to pick up the child when they are dropped off at the end of the afternoon.

“This is a collaboration of agencies and organizations that offer the youth free and fun activities,” said Task Force member Kelly Arnold.