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Grand Forks Youth Commission has first 2018 meeting

The Grand Forks Youth Commission had its first meeting of the year Wednesday, and members learned more about an initiative to create a hangout for area youth and state laws relating to driving under the influence.

The commission includes representatives from Grand Forks Central High School, Red River High School, Elroy Schroeder Middle School, Nathan Twining Middle School

and South Middle School.

In an address to members at the start of the meeting, Pete Haga from the mayor's office emphasized the group's significance to the city.

"We expect great things out of you," Haga said. "You are what we city leaders rely on as the youth voice."

Last year, commission members gathered opinions from peers as part of a survey about changes young residents want to see in the community. Those responses impacted many of the policy and development decisions the city has made, Haga said, including topics on distracted driving, substance abuse, military involvement and downtown development.

"You're doing great things for all people in town, not just youth," Haga said.

Many survey responses revealed young people want a safe hangout space dedicated to them and their needs. Tyler Larson, a UND student, told the commission about his Penny House project, a nonprofit youth center for junior high and high school students, which was one of several ideas to win the Main Street Grand Forks Challenge earlier this summer.

Larson was in high school when he created the first Penny House in Harvey, N.D., "so kids have a place after school to hang out instead of sitting out in a field somewhere drinking," he said.

To gauge local interest in a Grand Forks location, Larson said he'll host a few weekend pop-up Penny Houses. He scheduled the first one for Sept. 21 and Sept. 22 at Impact Nutrition.

Sgt. Ryan Panasuk with the state Highway Patrol attended the meeting to inform commissioners about state DUI laws. In his presentation, he reiterated the same point as Haga, highlighting the group's influence on local youth.

"This is a huge concern for my generation," Panasuk said of DUIs. "I think you probably have a bigger influence on people than adults will. You may have to confront someone, like 'Hey, it's not safe for you to drive, you shouldn't be driving.'"

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

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