'Next Wave of Civic Activists'

'Next Wave of Civic Activists'

20-somethings in Arlington signed up. At a forum hosted by the Central Public Library last Wednesday, young adults were recruited to volunteer in Arlington.

"We're looking forward to creating the next wave of civic activists in Arlington," said County Board member Walter Tejada, who spearheaded the forum.

The forum was part of a county-wide initiative, the Community Role Models Program, aimed at getting more young adults involved in local volunteer work and activism.

The program gives young adults the chance to learn about volunteer opportunities in Arlington. More than 10 volunteer organizations were on hand to take new recruits.

"I've always felt we have lots of talented young adults in Arlington that simply have not been asked to participate in civic life, and there are a lot opportunities in Arlington," Tejada said. "We talk a lot about being diverse. Well, diversity is not just race, it is also age and interest.

"We have many young adults that go to Washington for volunteer work and internships, yet there are many other opportunities we can offer them right here."

Mentoring is a large focus of the program, according to Tejada. "One of the goals is to create a pool of mentors who can help our youth," he said.

The program also seeks to encourage a kind of civic entrepreneurship.

"I want our young adults to come up with their ideas and their own ways of doing things so the programs really have a life of their own," Tejada said. "We have to do thing differently to attract young adults."

DANNY ORIHUELA, 22, came to the forum in the midst of a job search.

"I'm currently job-hunting, and I figured this would be a good way to pass the time while I'm trying to figure out what I want to do," he said.

The forum was the program's first organized event.

The program's goal of connecting young people to community organizations is a potential remedy for many of the issues facing county schools, said School Board member Libby Garvey.

"This is exactly what we need to be doing more of here in Arlington, connecting young people with the community," Garvey said. "Students identify more and in a different way with young adults than, say, volunteers who are older. It's a good way to get young people back into the community."

Becky Novinskie, who attends Catholic University in Washington, DC, said she wanted to find a way to combine her love of nature with her love of teaching children.

"I'm going to law school and I spend most of my time studying," she said. "I don't get the chance to interact with many people, so this would be a good way to do that.

"I like outdoors projects and working with younger children, so I'm looking to do something that would involve hiking, nature and kids."

SOME ORGANIZATIONS at the forum included the Argus House, a group home for young boys, the Arlington Community Action Program, Arlington Kiwanis Soccer and the Girl Scouts.

Representatives from the Reading Connection, a literacy outreach program for children living in shelters and Arlington Refugee services also attended to sign on tutors and volunteers for other work.

Trish Long, 26, said she came to the forum simply to help her community and for the sense of accomplishment she gets from volunteering.

"I just want to better the community and also to, in a way, feel better about myself," she said.