Teens take on downtown

Alpena to seek advice from high schoolers with Junior DDA Board

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Downtown Scoops Ice Cream Shoppe employee Nicklas Schultz, left, serves an ice cream cone to Gabriel Door, who was celebrating his fifth birthday on Thursday with his brother, Elijah Door. Schultz attends Alpena High School and would like to see more events for teens downtown. The Alpena Downtown Development Authority is trying to do just that, forming a junior committee made up of high school students who will help create and plan events, as well as lead a possible beatification project.

ALPENA — There is a lot to do in downtown Alpena, but many of the events and businesses seem to draw people who are a little on the older side.

A new committee being formed by the Alpena Downtown Development Authority aims to change that and have local high school students plan youth events and lead other projects downtown.

The DDA will reach out to Alpena High School to form a junior committee, which will include students, DDA Marketing and Outreach Coordinator Kingsli Kraft, and a member of the DDA authority board.

The idea to have a youth committee came from Kraft, who was the DDA’s summer intern and isn’t far removed from high school, herself. Kraft is leading the project.

She said that, when she was in school, there were a lot of teens who believed there was little for them to do downtown and didn’t know what the DDA is or does.

“I felt like there was no place for me downtown, nothing for me to do or no way for me to get involved,” Kraft said. “This will give the students a chance to take some ownership in downtown and step up and have a voice.”

Each year, DDA hosts events which help to increase the amount of foot-traffic that goes in and out of the businesses. Executive Director Anne Gentry said adding events geared toward youth is needed and will help expose the kids to other things that could be appealing to them.

“It is important to get the kids downtown and to have a voice about what the downtown is and will be,” Gentry said. “If they have good experiences of the downtown now, they could become long-term lovers of it and be active in it. We don’t want the downtown to be just for professionals or older people. We want it to be diverse and fun for everyone.”

Kraft said if there is a new event for teens and kids, it will come from the minds of the youth on the committee and they will be the ones to make it a reality. She said the committee could also plan and execute a beautification project, as well.

“The vision is, they brainstorm together to come up with the ideas and work together to devise action steps that will take it from an idea, all the way to a finished project,” she said. “They will learn how to find sponsors, create proposals, work with the city, create and follow a budget, and everything that is involved to put things like this together.”

Nicklas Schultz is in high school and also works at Downtown Scoops Ice Cream Shoppe on Second Avenue. He said it would be nice to see more people his age downtown because it would create more business for the shops and restaurants.

But, in order for that to happen, there needs to be more reasons for young people to come into the heart of the city, he said.

“Having more events would be pretty great; it would drive people into the stores and just overall make Alpena a more lively place,” Schultz said. “There could be dances or a lot of other things that I think would bring people my age out.”

Kraft said she hasn’t spoken to anyone at the high school, or Alpena Public Schools, but intends to do so soon and the committee will be promoted in the school. There are already recruiting posts being circulated on social media. She said the use of social media will likely be used a lot during the planning stages and there will be two committee meetings a month. Kraft said she would like to see the committee formed and meet late in September or early October.

For more information, contact the DDA at 989-356-6422.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.