HUDSON — A group of citizens concerned with making Hudson a more family- and youth-friendly city gathered Sunday at the Hudson Area Library to share their ideas to achieve that goal and to hear feedback from a packed house of 75 residents.
The event was hosted by the organizations Kite’s Nest and the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, and the workshop was part of a community design process called Raising Places, a project that is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“There’s been a lot of development happening in Hudson, as we know, but often a missing lens is bringing the youth and the families into that planning and into that development,” Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood Project Director Joan Hunt said.
The team, tasked with coming up with ideas, consists of elected officials, lifelong Hudson residents and people who work with youth, Hunt said. The two organizations are one of six community representative groups across the country to be chosen for the program. The group started meeting in September.
“We brought together a design team of 12 members from the community who bring different perspectives to the table,” Hunt said.
An advisory board, consisting of local youth, are actively involved in the process by providing feedback, Hunt said.
“They have really been guiding us throughout this process,” she said.
The group first identified Hudson’s assets for children and teenagers and the challenges people face, Kite’s Nest Assistant Director Sara Kendall said. Three areas the group focused on were unemployment and the lack of employment pathways for youth, racism and the lack of representation in institutions, and the lack of affordable and accessible spaces.
“Those are very broad categories we started with and then through a lot of hours of Post-It noting and really going deeper into these areas, we started to identify some goals we as a group had,” Kendall said.
Some of the group’s goals include having employment paths for youth, affordable spaces for all, and for Hudson police to have positive interactions with the city’s youth, Kendall said. Those goals were researched and many demographics from children to law enforcement officers were interviewed for their opinions on these matters.
“Something that this process has been training us in is how you enter without thinking you know the answers already,” Kendall said.
The group later tried to make sense of what they learned and came up with key questions all starting with the phrase “How might we,” Kendall said. An event was held in November at Club Helsinki where 260 ideas were submitted about how to achieve the goals. The group looked at which ones had the most community energy surrounding them.
“Some of them have gotten a lot further, some of them have gotten a little further,” Kendall said of the ideas. “These are messy ideas in process that we’re looking for continued feedback and engagement around to decide which ones are really worth moving forward.”
The program focuses on the area below 2nd Street known as “Downstreet” and Columbia and State streets. Some of the ideas include a citywide plan for parks that would include input from youths and families and having a digital job search application, Hunt said after the meeting.
“That was something that got a lot of positive feedback,” Hunt said of the application idea. “That would be something easy for kids to engage with.”
There were many ideas submitted as to what law enforcement officers should be trained in such as mediation and restorative justice, Hunt said. The overall goal is for youth to have a better relationship with police.
“We know our police department has had some challenges in getting some information from the community,” Hunt said.
The group is taking the feedback heard Sunday by families, small business owners and others, to see if there are any concerns, Hunt said. Some of the ideas will be tested later in the month.
“Between now and April some of those pilots will already be up and running and getting feedback,” she said. “We’ll be measuring what the success of those will look like.”
The $60,000 grant given by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is solely for planning and not for implementation, Hunt said. The 12 member group is compensated for their time.
“We’ll have to identify additional funding streams,” Hunt said of implementing the ideas.
Group member Cedrick Fulton focused on youth employment and job skills because he believes if children can make themselves successful in the future, society will be, too.
“My heart is more towards youth advocacy and always wanting to see the best of our youth,” Fulton said. “Our young people are the ones who move us as a society forward.”
While there’s a perception that Hudson is not a youth-friendly city, Fulton said it can be through this process. “Even if it’s a perception, it’s a perception coming from our young people,” he said.
Fulton said the group’s next steps are researching the suggestions and seeing which ones are the most feasible in the long term.
“If we want to make the community a better community, we have to get the community involved,” Fulton said. “We’ve got to go out now and talk to individuals.”
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