N.D. seeks to improve state for young people

BISMARCK—North Dakota teens and college students should see the benefits of a long list of recommendations aimed at making the state more attractive to them.

The North Dakota Youth Council released a 15-page report Monday with its recommendations for how the state can make improvements in job opportunities, entertainment, health and education.

Some of the report’s top ideas include:

• Sustaining the ACT ND scholarship program, which provides students with up to $1,500 per academic year to attend a North Dakota college.

• Creating a “Virtual High School for Scholars” to offer online dual credit and advanced placement opportunities to meet the demand of students who desire a higher level of achievement.

• Improving academic advising in both high school and college.

• Creating one central website for internships, scholarships and other resources for young people.

Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, who assisted the council, praised the young people involved with creating the report.

“They were an exceptional group of students,” he said. “There was no doubt in my mind that they would come up with a number of initiatives that would help solve some problems in North Dakota.”

The North Dakota Youth Council was created in 2009 to identify issues and provide recommendations pertinent to North Dakota residents younger than 25.

The group consists of Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, 16 young people ranging from ages 17-24 and four state lawmakers.

The council worked to give state lawmakers a new perspective of what’s important to young people, said member Vance Zacharias of Kathryn, N.D.

“It’s been a great new experience working with so many different people and just getting the views from across the state on what’s important and finding out what other youths’ views are,” said Zacharias, a North Dakota State University freshman.

Council member Calli Thorne, 23, of Watford City, N.D., also said it was fun to meet with other young people and discuss issues facing North Dakota.

She helped develop recommendations under the job opportunities category and wants to see an internship and scholarship website created.

“I think that will be very beneficial if that goes through,” she said.

Dalrymple said the group’s suggestions are realistic and create a call to action to continue to build on opportunities for young people.

The report will be provided to the governor, Legislature and various state agencies, communities and entities, such as the State Board of Higher Education, for consideration.

The entities involved in the various recommendations will be asked to respond, and Dalrymple expects to see legislation from the report.

“I believe that these things are going to have an impact,” he said. “We would not have been able to get to the bottom of some of those issues without some of this direct input.”

The problem of youth retention in the state is complex, said Shawn Affolter of Mandan, N.D., a council member and NDSU student body vice president.

Council members didn’t find a “magic bullet,” but hope their recommendations can bring positive change, he said.

“I’m honored to be a part of it,” Affolter said.

The entire report and list of recommendations can be found at www.youthforward.com.