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Panel Considers Plans for a Teen-Friendly Camarillo : Recreation: Steering committee for embryonic commission hashes out ideas for safe fun in a town that youths call boring.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Josh Kohlmeier and his friends have been looking for a place in Camarillo where they can talk, play music or “whatever.”

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“We need to get more things going for me and my friends to do so we’re not waiting around for a party to come up or going to the movies every night,” said Josh, 15.

The Camarillo High School freshman, four other teen-agers and six adults are steering a youth commission to address the common complaint among Camarillo teen-agers that there is nothing to do.

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The idea for the commission took root in May after a three-hour City Hall forum on youth recreation issues. Last week, the 11 steering committee members were chosen during a meeting with teen-agers, parents, city officials and interested citizens.

“We moved from the San Fernando Valley to Camarillo 3 1/2 years ago, and this place is perfect except for one thing,” said parent Jo Tate, a member of the steering committee. “We don’t want our daughter to drive up the grade to Thousand Oaks or down to Oxnard and Ventura for things to do. I don’t want to think about my daughter maneuvering the Conejo Grade at midnight. We want to offer opportunities for safe recreation in the city.”

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The steering committee has not come up with a name for the commission, but Josh said it must have the word youth in it so “we can remind parents that it is for youth and they can just look at our name to see that. This is a youth commission, not a parent commission.”

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Planning to formally become a commission at the Sept. 27 City Council meeting, they are hashing out their goals. Their success depends on whether they can bridge the generation gap--pleasing teen-agers while being acceptable to parents.

Already, a discussion of a proposed fall kickoff dance had parents suggesting 10 or 11 adult chaperons while the teen-agers preferred six or fewer. Some teens prefer a concert over a dance.

“I don’t know where we’re going to find a happy medium, but any time you’re trying to please people in any number, there’s going to be compromise,” Tate said. “I think this group ultimately is going to be the promoter of a lot of things kids want.”

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The youth commission may tap into established resources, oversee programs and activities or create a space for teen-agers. Eventually, youngsters may run the commission with adults as advisers. Nothing has been decided, members say.

Many steering committee members are banking on a new teen center being added to the Camarillo Boys & Girls Club at 1500 Temple Ave. It will give the kids “a place to hang out where they’re supervised but not smothered and where there will be structured activities,” said Jay Grigsby, the club’s executive director.

Details about the center, expected to open in January, have not been worked out, he said.

Friday Night Live, a peer program that combats teen-age drug and alcohol use by creating projects and social activities, has 15 chapters around the county but none in Camarillo. Ola Samuels, a member of both the steering committee and Camarillo High’s student government, said the school’s student leadership will discuss starting a chapter this year.

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Ola, 16, is optimistic that the youth commission will benefit teen-agers.

“I realize any program is not going to reach everybody,” she said. “But I think the youth commission is a positive thing. There really isn’t much for us to do in Camarillo, and we’re hoping to change that.”

Youths and adults agree that greater publicity at schools, possibly through a teen hot line, is also needed to spread the word about existing activities, including the Boys & Girls Club and church groups.

“We need to connect the resources we already have and it’s wise to use facilities we already have,” said Marilyn Noorda, associate pastor of the Camarillo Jubilee Church. “Like hearts and like minds can work together instead of being in isolated pockets in the city. Why reinvent the wheel if we’ve already got one?”


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