Goals are far-reaching for youth group members

Editor’s note: This is the 15th in a series of United Way agency profiles scheduled for publication each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday through Sunday.

By Eric Butler
While the participants in “Reach For Tomorrow” may be thinking about short-term rewards, the organizers are hoping to veer the youngsters’ minds into longer-range goals.
And, indeed, both might be taking place at the same time in the Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) program.
Reach For Tomorrow is intended to reach eighth graders initially.
Those students work on various community service projects and then are taken on a trip in the summer.
For Albert and Alex Urban, fraternal twins now in the ninth grade at Marshall Junior High, a trip to San Diego last summer was a fruitful reward for a year of work outside the classroom.
“The trip was just to have fun,” Albert Urban said. “We did different things every day. We went to the beach one day, we went to a base another day to look at how they fix airplanes that have been at war.
“One day, we went on a boat and someone went down and got some starfish to look at.”
Dawn Pivonka, executive director for YOU, hopes that the trip helps give the participants ideas on what they can do for a future career.
“We toured a naval hospital ship, one of the only ones around, and it was about a 1,000-bed ship. It was really neat for them, because they never would have seen something like that,” Pivonka said. “That’s where this program really gets the kids.
“Out of the 14 that went with us, there were maybe two that knew what they wanted to do when they left,” she said. “When we came back, there was maybe two who didn’t know what they wanted to do.”
Each of the Reach For Tomorrow participants puts in at least 25 hours of time each year for community service projects. This year, one of the tasks will be a stocking tree at Dollar Tree in Clovis — where gifts can be bought for needy children.
The gifts will then be delivered by Reach For Tomorrow members just before Christmas.
The work goes on year-round. But even the tougher tasks have proven to have intrinsic worth beyond just being a means to an end — or, in this case, the way to earn a summer trip.
“We go cut grass for senior citizens, who can’t do it and we paint up (cover) graffiti — like gang signs on dumpsters,” Alex Urban said. “I think it’s good for the community, because it makes it look better and it doesn’t make it look like this town is full of gangs.”

Youth Opportunities Unlimited

n Where: 414 Mitchell St., Clovis
n Phone: 762-8385
n Mission: To support the social, intellectual and emotional development of children and families in the Ninth and 10th Judicial Districts.
n Number of members on board of directors: Six
n Annual operating budget: $250,000
n Percentage contributed by Curry County United Way: 3 percent