Caldwell students learn to speak up and lead

Students from Canyon County filled the College of Idaho’s outdoor amphitheater on Wednesday for the third annual Caldwell Youth Forum. Nearly 50 high school teens from COSSA, Caldwell, Vallivue and Canyon Springs high schools were selected by teachers and counselors to attend the event.

Caldwell High School Principal Anita Wilson invited Braden Swanson, a senior and wide receiver on the varsity football team. Wilson wants her students to learn how to become better leaders at school and not just a bystander.

“Going into the forum I didn’t know what to expect,” Swanson said. “I have learned that I need to spread open and get out of my comfort zone.”

The goal of the forum is to encourage teens to step out of the shadows, shake off the “bystander” role and to work with peers.

“Typically we are looking at the mainstream student that is identified as potential classic leaders – students who aren’t at the forefront, but identified to make a difference,” said Ron Bonneau, chairman of the Caldwell Youth Forum.

Students learned the abuse and irresponsible use of alcohol, asset-based thinking and brainstormed ideas on how to improve their school. Leaders from the College of Idaho, YMCA, Hope’s Door and Mentoring Network, and the City of Caldwell joined in on the activities.

“We want the students to know that everyone has an element of self-worth and they should feel good about themselves,” Bonneau said. “We want to recognize the differences between right and wrong.”

Swanson plans to take the information he learned back to the classroom and work on fitting in with more peers at school.

“I have felt like a bystander, but I’m a leader on the football team. I plan to be more of a leader now on campus and not just on the team,” Swanson said. “I’m going to stand up and speak out.”

Under the City of Caldwell’s Youth Master Plan adopted in 2012, the forum is one of many events coordinated by the city which include safety, out-of-school time, health and wellness, education and workforce readiness, community involvement, communication and relationships.

“We are creating more opportunities for Caldwell youth that improve quality of life and improve access to community resources,” said Holly Cook, communications and research specialist for the City of Caldwell. “The Master Plan includes “promises” related to each of the six goals, and Mayor Nancolas ensures that those promises are kept.”