SNEWS Youth Team member working with younger at-risk kids featured in news blog

Although only working as an environmental educator for a year, Anthony Shaheen, an inaugural member of the SNEWS Youth Advisory & Reporting Team, has wasted no time making a few perhaps unwanted waves in his quest to get even younger kids into the outdoors. He shares with SNEWS some publicity about a program he runs for at-risk youth.

Although only working as an environmental educator for a year, Anthony Shaheen, an inaugural member of the SNEWS Youth Advisory & Reporting Team, has wasted no time making a few perhaps unwanted waves in his quest to get even younger kids into the outdoors.

Recently, as he’s grown a program he runs for at-risk youth for his employer, the Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation Department in Charlotte, N.C., funds are needed, and the political debate is ensuing in the community about the best use of city money. The debate about such efforts, Shaheen’s program and funding became the subject of the regional newspaper’s blog.

“This article is about my program,” Shaheen, also an Outdoor Nation Ambassador, told SNEWS® when he sent us the link about the blog. “A little too political but I guess that’s what happens when you work in government.”

The blog was written by a news columnist, Peter St. Onge, at the Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer, sparked many responses from the community -- 29 as of a few days later -- some in favor of the program and its use of funds, some strongly against using the money for anything of the sort.

St. Onge, in the Nov. 6 blog titled, “A question about what government should be,” wrote this:

“After a week in which voters sent a message about what government shouldn’t be, here’s a story – and a question – about what government can do.

“It begins with Anthony Shaheen, who is 23 years old and a Charlotte native. Last year, the Appalachian State grad took a job as an environmental educator for the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department. Last fall, he helped start an outdoor club at McClintock Middle School.“McClintock is a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Title 1 school, with at least three-quarters of its population qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. Each of the 25 boys and girls who joined Shaheen’s club were considered “at-risk” by the school system.“The idea behind the outdoor club was simple: Give the kids an appreciation of nature….”

The columnist, in interviewing Shaheen, discussed the changes in the kids Shaheen works with as well as the increase in their enjoyment of the outdoors. But then the columnist moves to the political debate:

“The changes have been so transformative that Shaheen and his colleagues want to expand the club’s concept. Their idea: Take the land at Copperhead Island on Lake Wylie and turn it into a camp for at-risk kids. The county leases the property for $1 a year from Duke Energy. The park department would need, however, to build cabins and a mess hall; the cost could be about $200,000.

“And this is the point where some of you say: Whoa.“Is it government’s role to build a camp for disadvantaged children, no matter how worthy the effort might be?...”

You get the idea where it goes from here. The columnist in a well-balanced and finely researched article, didn’t make a call but sparked debate -- tons of it -- from both sides. For example, from an anonymous poster:

“My personal opinion is that government should only provide for the protection and defense of individual liberty. When government forcefully takes from one individual his or her hard earned wealth to give to another, that government is then abusive and should be abolished. The recent election is an example of how our Founders intended the system to work peacefully. I know there will be some detractors of my comments. I would ask you: When a government expands in size and power, does that mean more or less individual liberty for the citizen?”

And from another anonymous poster:

“…Our thanks are due to Mr. Shaheen and all the private donors for the camp, who have done more for our community and our children than those of us sitting in our Southeast Charlotte homes with full refrigerators and degrees on the wall taken for granted.”

“The island that will turn into a camp is a dream at this point,” Shaheen explained a few days after the blog was first published. “I’m trying to focus on the partnerships I see daily and the kids I get to impact because that’s where I will show a need for the outdoors within the inner city.

“People want to argue the politics behind (President Barack) Obama and everything else and I try to stay out of all of it,” he said. “I’m small beans in a county budget. I affect nothing as far as a taxpayer is concerned, and I use resources that are for the most part lying dormant.”

Nevertheless, he added, “Everyone that is close to the program is very excited to hear that my work is making local news and showing an impact on our community.”

Take a look at the entire blog and the well-monitored discussion by clicking here.

Find out more about the SNEWS Youth Advisory & Reporting Team as it develops by going to Applications are still open on an on-going basis. Click here to download a form for an aspiring youth you know.

--Therese Iknoian

(Photo by Anthony Shaheen)

[advertising_display billboard_name="|Youth_Team_Sponsors|" number_to_display="|1|"]



SNEWS Youth Team: Buying motivation

Checkout this expanded magazine Web Extra on what influences youth buying decisions. It is based on our summary story on Page 9 in the SNEWS Winter 2011 issue. To download the full magazine as of February 2011, go to Everybody wants to know what more


SNEWS Youth Reporter experiences magic of outdoors at Atlanta Outdoor Nation summit

Earlier this summer, Outdoor Nation, the youth-led movement spurring youngsters to reconnect, redefine and rediscover the outdoors, held its main event in New York City (June 22-23, 2011), with representatives from each state discussing key objectives and goals. The event more


SNEWS Youth Team: If apps make the smartphone, then features make a jacket

Apps make the smartphone, so features make a jacket. In a perfect world, what would a perfect jacket look like? Our SNEWS® Youth Team Reporter Lorin Paley picked her fave parts for what she called her “Frankenjacket.” See what she said. When an experienced outdoors person walks more


SNEWS Youth Team: Three CEOs weigh in with youth reporters

SNEWS Youth Reporting Team members interviewed top executives of three large companies -- Prana, adidas and Vibram -- at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 about issues that are most important to youth: sustainability, price, quality, the effect of tough times, health and, of more


SNEWS Youth Team: Q&A with teen mountaineer Matthew Moniz

Matthew Moniz is one 13-year-old who has already started accumulating quite a climbing resume, having reached the summits of Denali, Kilimanjaro, Cerro Aconcagua and Mount Elbert, to name a few. Besides a love of the outdoors, this Boulder, Colo., native has another driver for more


SNEWS Youth Team reporter: Denver Outdoor Nation summit has passion

Outdoor Nation’s Denver Youth Summit faced 100-degree heat and was behind schedule, but not a delegate minded. Sweat rolled off tired faces from the weekend conference, yet the intensity of the discussions didn't falter. Attendees had been assigned to come up with a regional more

SNEWS® Live: Outdoor youth programs put kids first, profits second

This edition of SNEWS® Live is brought to you by The North Face [advertising_display billboard_name="|Podcast_TNF_Billboard|" number_to_display="|3|"] SNEWS® Live: Over the years, we've heard time and time again how important it is to give young people the opportunity to have a more


SNEWS Youth Team: Getting’ comfy, looking cool on the road not a small matter

This summer many thousands of under-30 graduate and undergraduate kids will trek around Europe (or someplace other than home) with just a pack full of clothes and a train ticket. For decades, this soul-searching, culture-seeking pilgrimage has been a right of passage for youth, more


SNEWS Youth Team: A look at companies appealing to youthful outdoor newbies

In a world of super technical, ultra-vapor-wicking, titanium alloy-reinforced, mega, mini, maxi, mucho everything, what happened to gear that is a tool to bridge the gap between the outdoors and the everyday for the beginner outdoor enthusiast? At this year’s Outdoor Retailer more