2017-05-28 / Insight

YOMS encourages Almont youth to be active in community

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Peyton Rienes, Julia Thompson, Lillian Winkler, Brady Thompson and Aaron Thompson make a clean sweep of Almont’s Main Street last month. Youth on Main Street (YOMS) encourages community involvement among area teens. 
Photo by Phil Foley Peyton Rienes, Julia Thompson, Lillian Winkler, Brady Thompson and Aaron Thompson make a clean sweep of Almont’s Main Street last month. Youth on Main Street (YOMS) encourages community involvement among area teens. Photo by Phil Foley ALMONT — This fall is going to be a rebuilding season for YOMS (Youth on Main Street), Almont’s community involvement youth organization.

Four of this year’s members are graduating this spring, and Almont Downtown Development (DDA) Director Kim Schall will be at Almont High School this fall with YOMS member Dakota Lahaie looking to boost its membership up to the usual dozen or so members it typically has.

Nancy Boxey, who left the DDA last year to take a state job and then became executive director of the Lapeer County Community Foundation, formed the group in 2014 after attending a Main Street conference.

“After the crash,” she recalled, “everyone was leaving. The question was how do we create a sense of community?” She said there was a need to do more than simply require kids to go to a village council meeting and do a few hours of community service.

At the conference she saw a Main Street program from Kentucky that got local youth involved in their community at a deeper level and decided to bring the concept back to Almont.

Boxey said that while there are other YOMS groups around the country, Almont’s is the only one in Michigan.

“I like making a difference in the community,” said LaHaie, who’ll be a senior this fall.

That said, one of the biggest challenges in running any program in a small school is the large demands for time on the most active students.

“There’s a lot of things going on, so you see a lot of the same people,” said Oliva Bussome, who’s graduating.

With a small core group, YOMS has settled into three main activities — the fall and spring cleanups downtown and Polar Palooza, the group’s one-day winter carnival. This year with bitter cold temperatures and no snow, Polar Palooza was pretty much a bust.

“I think we had three people show up,” Schall said, adding the group will have to discuss what kind of changes they want to make next winter.

Schall and Boxey agreed that at its core, YOMS is about creating a stronger connection between Almont’s youth and the community.

Boxey said it hasn’t hit all the goals she had in mind in the summer of 2013 when she first began thinking about YOMS, but she added, “things evolve.”

She noted that while she envisioned a group that created more youth-oriented activities, YOMS members moved into more family oriented things. She said the cleanups have become a huge success drawing many people from outside YOMS.

“You have to be prepared for change,” she said.

Noting that “everything goes in cycles,” Boxey said, “I’m really proud of our YOMS groups.”

She added, “There will always be a need for groups like YOMS. The key is getting in new blood” and being a student group, that’s a constant need.

Boxey is convinced groups like YOMS help build a community’s next generation of leaders. She was thrilled when one of this year’s graduating seniors, Madeline Grey, called to ask for a reference and told her that she was planning on going into public service because of her time in YOMS.

“I think all of them will be active in their communities in some way,” Boxey said.

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