Prepared by 20 is focus of group

A group of community leaders, educators and service organizations are joining forces to help the next generation of Tri-Citians become contributing adults by the age of 20.

More than 100 people who work with youth -- or want to help youth -- met Thursday for the Prepared By 20 Systems Summit to find ways to collaborate to help kids grow into successful adults.

"This truly is a community-wide planning effort that has made a huge impact to our community," said John Inman, general manager for McCurley Dealerships. " ... It's not a new program, it's a collaboration of many agencies that are already existing."

Inman, United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties board member, explained that Prepared By 20 is the second initiative for Community Solutions.

Community Solutions is a regional health and human services plan intended to address the Tri-Cities' most pressing needs. The first initiative, Our Babies Can't Wait, focused on making sure kids are ready when it's time for them to start kindergarten.

Now, the next step is focusing on helping kids ages 10 to 20 by connecting them with mentors, he said.

The goal is to help kids turn away from poor choices and learn how to make positive ones in their lives, he said.

And, Inman stressed again, it's not about creating a new program to help kids. It's about taking advantage of the numerous resources, groups and organizations that already focus on kids and making sure kids and adults know what's out there.

"This movement really is about trying to get all of you the tools you need to help kids," he said.

Those who attended the summit got a chance to hear some success stories about how collaboration really can make a difference, and got some pointers about how to overcome problems when trying to get groups to work together.

Ego and control is the enemy to collaboration, said Jim Skucy, with the Benton Franklin Early Learning Alliance.

Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who talked about how law enforcement agencies in the Tri-Cities have worked together for years to create a safer community, said everybody wins if they're open, transparent and honest.

The leaders, educators and service providers then got together to discuss barriers to helping kids in the community and ways to overcome those barriers.

LoAnn Anyers, board chairwoman for the United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties, said she was excited to see the number of people show up for the summit and commit to helping youth in the community.

"Each person can make a difference in the life of the community by making a difference in the life of a kid," she said.