Editor's note: This is part of a special section on Columbia's kids. Read more here.
COLUMBIA — This spring, the Missourian asked readers for their opinions about the needs of Columbia's kids.
The question came out of a special project about people making a difference in the lives of Columbia's kids.
Readers responded to the question: What are kids in Columbia most in need of?
Gabriella McCord said: "Kids in Columbia need: Safe, exciting, educational after school teen venues."
Jamie Ronchetto Zillig said: "I wish CoMo had a giant aquarium and a place to see all kinds of fish and ocean creatures since that's something we don't have much of around here."
Mary Jo Creech said: "I would love to see some more nature programs. My kids love being outside and with so many great parks and trails here, there should be more conservation teaching programs. I would love to see an aquarium, too! I like being not too far from the zoos in Kansas City and St. Louis, but an aquarium would be great."
Elaine Hartley said: "Kids in Columbia, like all children in the world, need to be members of a strong and caring community. They need a healthy diet, free from contaminants such as GMOs and petrochemicals. They need clean air unsullied by the pollution from burning fossil fuels. They need clean water to drink. They need strong, supportive, free public schools, no matter what the socioeconomic status of their parents may be. They need a culture which is focused primarily on the needs of future generations. They need adults who are not mesmerized by the accumulation of more and more useless things. They need to live in a world which has finally and forever given up war. They need an actual future."
Jason Wallace said: "They need a education driven home life, where everything is a learning experience and questions of who, what, where, when, why and how are covered through everyday talk. Kids who are exposed to this at an early age will be ready for school and life. Home life is where kids will/need to learn about people (big and small) and boundaries for both, way before the first bell rings. They need to understand just because school is closed does not mean learning stops. Do drills with them on holidays (go over what that day means), snow days and vacations. Learning time never stops, they will learn something it will be either negative or positive. They need (some parents, too) a schedule for bed time, supper, homework and FUN. Parents are teachers, too, so ... what are you teaching them?"
Joanne Schrader said: "Children need strong caring, connected and committed families. Children who have these three essential elements tend to do a lot better than children who are missing one or more of these items. Everything else works itself out as long as children have the assurance of a healthy family unit."
Nia Imani, president of Fun City Youth Academy said: "A community/network of caring individuals."
Elizabeth Travis said: "Columbia is a great town with numerous events and activities going on year round. However, what about the in-between time? Little kids can beg to go to Bonkers, middle schoolers might hang out at the roller rink, but what are older kids doing besides getting in trouble or bowling? Honestly, I believe all the children could use a few more places to spend their time, more events that are affordable on an allowance or how about free activities they can easily take advantage of no matter where they live in town or even in the county? I'd also recommend instituting more advantages for kids to get involved in sports and other outdoor activities."
Maria McMahon, outreach counselor Hickman High School said: "Here are some needs I think:
Jackie Ford, head teacher at Nora Stewart Early Learning Center said: "They need a lot of learning organizations. They need Nora Stewart. They need leaders, someone to just put them on the right track and set them up straight."
Consuela Johnson, administrative assistant for Fun City Youth Academy of Columbia, said: "In my opinion what children in Columbia need is adult attention. They need more positive role models. Role models that show them that you can still be cool and be 'smart.' Also, they need our attention. Sometimes, as adults we get caught up in our responsibilities and routines and we miss opportunities to share with our children or to say a kind word when needed. When children know that we really care about them and what they think, they will try harder on things they don't necessarily like, like reading and math, just to please you and get your praise. Then they find out they are actually good at it and that reading and math can be fun."
Vincent St. Omer, retired MU professor of veterinary medicine and member of the Minority Men's Network, said: "All kids in Columbia need to live in financially secured homes. In such safe environments, parents are attentive and interactive, books and toys are available, and nutrition is more than adequate. A significant number of parents live in poverty and cannot provide books, food and shelter for their children. Thus poverty is a barrier to early childhood education, since the skills necessary to read and write are developed prior to kindergarten or first grade."
Bonnie York said kids in Columbia could benefit from: