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Leaders to teens: What’s important?

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Over the next few weeks, Peterson youth leaders will be asking teens what is important to them.

They want to know about teens' interests; they will be asking teens, "If you could design any program on Peterson Air Force Base just for teens, what would it be?"

The youth leaders will take the teens' ideas to the 2011 Caring for People Forum this summer, where Airmen and civilians from across the Air Force will gather to talk about improving on all aspects of military life.

Youth programs are just one area likely to be tackled at the forum. From now to July, Peterson leadership will host focus groups for retirees, single Airmen and spouses to capture the issues most important to them, said Al Strait, chair of the 21st Space Wing's Integrated Delivery System. The IDS is the action arm of the Community Action Information Board. The goal of both groups is to improve the delivery of human service programs and improve Airmen's quality of life.

Through a series of focus groups on Peterson AFB, the IDS and CAIB will solicit ideas from Peterson's entire population about how to improve programs.

All of the ideas will be sent up to Air Force Space Command, which will then take the ideas and comments to the national forum, expected to be held in July in Washington, D.C. New Air Force programs have been developed because of issues brought up during the Caring for People Forum, Mr. Strait said.

For example, two years ago Airmen discussed the issues that children face when transferring from school to school every time a family moved to a new state. The result was the creation of school liaison officers in the Airman and Family Readiness Center, to help parents and children find and work with their local schools.

Last year, concerns were raised about the difficulty in finding programs and services for family members who have special needs. The Air Force hired exceptional family member program coordinators to join the team at select Airman and Family Readiness Centers. The EFMP coordinators connect families with base and community agencies that assist children and adults with special medical and educational needs.

The point is that when needs are identified, the Air Force has addressed those needs, said Dorothy Choate, 21st Airman and Family Services Flight chief.

"We are about our families and our Airmen and we are building upon our programs," she said.

Caring for People Forums are an avenue to help the Air Force develop or enhance programs in the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Family Advocacy Program, Health and Wellness Center, Mental Health Centers and Family Member Programs.

"The EFMP coordinators and school liaisons were born from initiatives that were worked through Caring for People Forums," Ms. Choate said.

This year, the 21st Space Wing wants to focus on teen issues. For example, teens might like to have a teen center or a place to call their own; or, teens might be interested in improved transportation to and from local schools, Ms. Choate said.

In recent weeks, the R.P. Lee Youth Center and the 21st Security Forces Squadron teamed to offer "Operation Hoop Nights" - where teens are invited to play ball with Airmen and just hang out, said Victoria Reid, director of youth programs.

"We want to understand the concerns that are out there with our teens," Ms. Reid said.

Ms. Reid said the youth center wants to beef up its program offerings for teens, especially as summer begins, even for teens that do not live on base. She would like teens to think of the youth center as their summer destination.

"We need to know the needs of the community and what we can do to help them out," Ms. Reid said.

· Peterson teens are encouraged to share their ideas about programs with the youth leaders at the R.P. Lee Youth Center, Building 1555. For details on upcoming teen events call the center at 556-7220.

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