IDAHO FALLS - Idaho (KIDK/KXPI) - KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz found a place for young people to go after school, but it's more than just a hang out. They can receive tutoring, life coaching, and support from peers. Kunz wanted to see how it's having an impact and to Pay It Forward.
"It's a place that I can come to just relax and if I need to go over homework and tutoring, I can do that," said Morrison Jones-Thiede, a high school junior.
"Here, you're about to get with all of your friends and you get to hang out and it's just a safe place to belong," said Nikayla Liebe, a high school junior.
Community Youth in Action started in June 2018. The group had no money, just volunteers. The short-term goal was to make a difference in the community. The long-term goal was to have a teen center.
In January 2019, they approached the Idaho Falls Senior Citizens Community Center about being partners on the teen center.
"They said yes," said Becky Leatham, a director for the youth.
Now Community Youth in Action has about 100 students come through the doors after school during the week. The community is a huge support. The Idaho State Independent Auto Dealers donated a van. They have two full-time directors and one part-time. Leatham and Marco Erickson are two of the directors who work with the teens.
"They're all so amazing and they have so much potential and I love working with youth and we make a difference in our community and so I do it because it matters," said Leatham.
"There's a lot of amazing things these guys are doing that really deserve recognition," said Erickson.
The teens are involved in things like community service projects, attending speaking events and conferences, learning life skills and self-improvement, classes, tutoring, and just having fun with friends.
The LIV Teen Center is named in honor of one of their friends, Olivia Johnson, who died in a car accident in June 2018. It also stand for "life is valuable." Their philosophy is inclusion of all teens and that everyone feels welcome.
Time to Pay It Forward.
"When teenagers do make bad mistakes like drinking or doing drugs, the prime time is like between 3 and 6 p.m.," said Liebe.
"How are you guys?" said a man walking into the room.
"Good," said the group.
"Marco and Becky, how are you guys? I'm Kory with Mountain America Credit Union," said the man.
"Oh hi," said Erickson.
"Hi there," said Leatham.
"Good. And you are?" said Carling, reaching out to shake hands with one of the students.
"Morrison. Very nice to meet you," said the student.
"Can you give us like just a couple minutes. We're doing this news interview?" asked Leatham.
"You betcha," said Carling.
"Give us just a second," said Leatham.
"That's actually why I'm here," said Carling.
"Oh really?" said Erickson.
"Oh you are?" asked Leatham.
"Yea, we actually heard about all the good you're doing in our community and actually the need that you guys are providing for students," said Carling.
"I was like, you're bothering us," said Leatham, laughing.
"No. And the peer to peer stuff you're doing and so we are actually here to Pay It Forward. So I've brought with me today $500 in cash that we want to actually give to you guys and say thank you for all that your're doing for our community and to continue to do it and provide the support to the other youth and provide a voice for our youth in leadership and so on behalf of Mountain America Credit Union, we'd like to Pay It Forward. So thank you for all that you do," said Carling, handing over an envelope of cash and shaking all their hands.
"Well, Thank you," said Leatham.
"Thank you," said Jones-Thiede.
"Oh how silly of me," said Leatham.
Erickson said the teens have done 60 service projects in the last year in Idaho Falls. The Community Youth in Action - LIV Teen Center is open weekdays after school and it usually open into the late evenings.
Click here for the Facebook page or call (208) 521-5328.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.