‘CU2’ aims to bolster youth, community relationship

LAKE PLACID – A new program here hopes to strengthen the relationship between teenagers and their community.

The CU2 – Connecting You to the Community – initiative, developed jointly by the Lake Placid Central School District, the Lake Placid Business Association and Lake Placid-Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition, launches its pilot program next week. The goal is to develop teen ambassadors for the Lake Placid community and help them foster a stronger bond with local business leaders.

Starting Monday, juniors and seniors at Lake Placid High School will visit local businesses to learn how they operate and see firsthand some of the challenges of working in a tourism-based economy.

“It started with a survey,” the CYC’s Mary Dietrich said this week. “Part of that survey asked questions in terms of how connected the youth are with the community. And the results were dismal.”

In fact, 79 percent of students surveyed said “their community did not notice when they did a good job.” Additionally, 59 percent said they don’t feel the community is proud of its youth “when they do well,” and 60 percent said the community doesn’t encourage them to do their best.

At the same time CYC was breaking down those survey results, the LPBA was discussing customer service and forming a better relationship between business owners and youth. So those groups got together with the school district to develop CU2.

“We met lots and lots of times to try to come to something that would work,” Tina Clark of CYC said. “I think this is a model that’s going to work really well in the future.”

Dietrich said the program breaks out into three parts. The first was orientation: Jim McKenna, president of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, and Ed Weibrecht, owner of the Mirror Lake Inn, spoke to students last week about the importance of tourism and the role youth plays in marketing the community. Business owners also gave students tips on how to prepare for a job interview.

The second part, which takes place over the next two weeks, includes business visits. Dietrich said these visits will be similar to job shadowing, “but with more depth to it.

“It’s not just go in and kind of observe what’s going on,” she said. “It’s actually going in and looking at different layers, talking to people to find out what skills are necessary, and find out what’s involved in making that business operate.”

Students have selected businesses based on personal interest. About 20 businesses have signed up to participate so far; Dietrich said the program may expand next year.

The third part involves student feedback.

“We’re asking them to give us their suggestions for how we can make the community better,” Dietrich said.

The pilot program will conclude with a pizza party at Mr. Mike’s Pizza. Students who offer the best recommendations will be rewarded with cash prizes.

LPBA President Lori Fitzgerald, director of marketing at High Peaks Resort, said CU2 will mutually benefit students and business owners.

“We wanted the students to understand what the business needs were from a customer service standpoint and how they hire and how they think about the people that are going to represent them,” she said. “And by the same token we wanted the students to realize that they’re an important part of what the business community needs and what this community overall needs.”

Dietrich said the program will also make students aware of short- and long-term economic and employment opportunities.

“It is possible to have a career in Lake Placid and make a very good living,” she said. “We want our youth to feel like they can stay here if they choose to do so.”