Belpre youth group begins to bond

BELPRE – Members of the Belpre Youth Chamber spent Thursday getting to know one another and how to work together during their first leadership training day.

About a dozen students from the Belpre High School campus gathered in the Belpre City Council chambers to do skill and trust-building activities as a group.

“The goal is to create a foundation for this group,” said Patrick Klein, a co-founder of PB&J Consultants.

Klein, a 2002 graduate of Belpre High School, is the assistant women’s basketball coach for The Ohio State University and creator of the iBelieve Foundation, which helps bring opportunity to Appalachian youth.

“I want these kids to take the skills and tools they learn here to create a great and standing youth chamber in their community,” Klein said. “As young people, they have the opportunity to make an impact.”

The eight members who attended the morning session were Gabbie Gramkow, 16; Sarah Cleland, 15; Jacob Logue, 18; Arielle Gramkow, 18; Cailee Britton, 12; Sarah Slater, 13; J.R. Pierce, 14, and Chase Baker, 13.

Klein told the students they are the pioneers of the youth chamber and other strong youth programs in the area.

“You are the planning basis of what this group will become for future generations,” he said.

The youth chamber is an off-shoot of the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce and was created by chamber member Kathy Gramkow, mother of Gabbie.

“We want to give the students an understanding of how to be involved in the community through projects and other programs,” she said. “We also want to give these kids a place to express their thoughts and give them the groundwork to be involved and let them understand that what they say and do matters to others.”

The students were chosen for the youth chamber through volunteerism as well as suggestions by teachers.

“Some of these kids wouldn’t normally volunteer to have a voice but are excellent additions to the program,” Gramkow said.

While the youth chamber is just starting out with this training session, the members have been meeting to discuss projects that include working with the adult chamber on the 81st annual Belpre Homecoming, which will be in August, as well as their own project.

“They are learning about how the community works and how the chamber and its businesses work, which is huge for kids,” said chamber executive director Karen Waller. “It is really great to see their minds work.”

The group has mentorships with the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce members where the adults will take on youth and do career development with them as well as leadership training within the chamber organization.

The group also works with The Right Path, which engages youth in positive activities to foster healthy development and get them to feel involved in their community through service.

“The biggest things we can give our students is understanding,” said Belpre High School principal Tom Eichinger, who attended the program. “By understanding they are important not only in school and at home, but in the community, they can have a great impact on those around them.”