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Helping the vulnerable

January 31, 2012
By STACEY KUKKONEN - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

BARAGA - A newly formed learning network allows people who work in a learning environment to come together and strengthen their ability to work together and with local youth.

The Baraga County Vulnerable Youth Learning Network does just that, said Paul Olson, youth development associate with Great Lakes Center for Youth Development and a coordinator of the learning network, located in Ishpeming.

"We do that in a couple of ways," he said. "One is we bring people from a bunch of different segments of the community that impact vulnerable youth, together."

The group meets every other month in Baraga County and learns about topics group members may be interested in. For example, the group listens to presenters and talks about topics like substance abuse and service learning.

"We had a session just a couple of weeks ago," Olson said. "We planned out sessions for future meetings."

The network aims to look at opportunities most beneficial and educational for younger people, he said.

In the coming year, the group will be learning about different kinds of educational opportunities there are in L'Anse and Baraga for young people who are part of alternative education.

"We'll be learning about how substance abuse affects young people and the parents of substance abuse," he said. "The different topics are all about bringing this group of people together, who are very diverse."

The network is made up of people from the juvenile court, principals, superintendents and the Copper Country Intermediate School District, among many others.

All members are people with work with young people directly or indirectly, he said.

"Every community has the ability to collaborate better," he said.

"Baraga is in a unique position because the county has about 1,800 young people and a population of about 9,000 people."

Olson said there were a lot of great opportunities to collaborate and the learning network will provide the chance to deepen the connection over time. A year from now, Olson said he hopes the people who are participating know each other and their community better.

"And that they have identified the things they want to improve and have a plan," he said.



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