ALTON - On Saturday, August 19 the Youth Engagement Program, or YEP as it is referred to by its members will be showing the movie “Back To The Future” at the Alton Amphitheatre. According to recent graduate and one of the YEP student leaders, Sydney Shansey, “Doing things for the community is an important core value of YEP, and hosting this movie was a great way to start off the school year.” Shansey added, “We discussed at our meeting that we wanted to make it affordable for everyone, and adding the $1 off for bringing a canned good helps our attendees and the Salvation Army Food Pantry…one of our partner organizations.” Regular admission to the movie is $3.00 for everyone and the gates will open at 7:30 pm. The Cartoons will start at about 8:00 pm and the movie will begin immediately following. Tickets will be sold at the door.

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Sarah Spond, another YEP Steering Committee member remarked, “Our committee talked a lot about what movie to select and tried to find something that we felt would appeal to adults, families, and students.” She added, “Just for fun we decided to add a little throwback, and we will be showing some Looney Tune classic cartoons before the movie starts.” “Concessions will also be available and affordably priced,” said Spond. Concessions for the night will include Dr. Pepper soft drinks, water, and Snapple Tea. Heavenly Scent Popcorn and Lulu’s Tropical Sno will also be on hand for the festivities. Joseph Whiteside, new YEP member remarked, “We really appreciate the help and encouragement that has been provided by our YEP adult mentors, Dorothy Hummel from the YWCA, Ben Golly from Today’s Beauty Supply, Jeff Warr from Argosy Casino, and Greg Gelzinnis from the Salvation Army – Alton Corps.” Whiteside added, “The adults have really let us take full responsibility for our events, and as a student, I appreciate that very much…it is a great way us to learn.”

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The Youth Engagement Program was founded after the 2016 Youth Speak Out sponsored by the Drug Free Alton Coalition and its High School Youth Arm – Power of Peers. Students at the Speak Out expressed that there weren’t places in the community for High School Students to “hang out” or “loiter with permission” as the YEP team likes to refer to it. The students also felt that there was a lack of communication and unified efforts to plan events that all high school students would feel comfortable attending. The students were also interested in finding some “more unique” places to study. It was these comments and feelings that led Drug Free Alton Coalition President, Greg Gelzinnis, to reach out to his colleagues and interested students and together they formed YEP. Since its inception, YEP has planned an Improv Night in the basement of the Salvation Army, a series of Poetry Slams at Today’s Place, and hosted the first ever High School Mayoral Forum this past spring. The students got candidate questions from the student body, and moderated and ran the entire debate. “I was so proud of what the students accomplished and received many comments that it was one of the best run of last spring’s forums,” said YEP mentor, Dorothy Hummel, Executive Director of the Alton YWCA. Hummel continued, “It was a wonderful way for the students to see, learn about, and be a part of our political process.” Mrs. Hummel concluded, “Many students in attendance had just turned 18 and were able to register and vote in their first election.”

YEP is open to all area High School students and will be meeting on Wednesdays at 3:30 pm on the Alton High School Campus. Meetings will last about 30 minutes and committees will be created to work on publicity & marketing, community service, and generating new ideas for events and activities to share with area high school students. YEP student leaders were also busy 2 weeks ago at the Alton High School registration where they signed up over 40 interested students to participate in the organization this coming school year. Students who sign up for YEP and participate in a majority of the group’s meetings & events will be eligible to win quarterly prizes. The first of which will be a Season Pass to Six Flags for the remainder of the 2017 Season.

Any student interested in more information or wishing to be a part of YEP can contact Greg Gelzinnis at 618-465-7764 X16 or by cell or text at 618-550-9291.

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