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Observer 11/24/14

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RURAL OUTREACH: Myken and Jon Kashare are establishing a program intended to help rural youths throughout the United States. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
RURAL OUTREACH: Myken and Jon Kashare are establishing a program intended to help rural youths throughout the United States. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

The bridge between rural and urban America is a difficult one to cross for many teenagers from small towns.

Those who cross it successfully, however, emerge with skills, contacts and experience that will catapult their lives into a higher sphere.

Soon La Grande area youths trying to make this move will have a guiding hand.

The reason: a new program, Change for Advancement in Rural Education, or CARE, is being started in La Grande. It is designed to help steer youths away from things like drugs and alcohol and introduce them to opportunities in the urban world.

The program is being created by former La Grande resident Myken Kashare of Santa Monica, Calif. Kashare is the owner of Absolute Concepts, a firm that specializes in national promotions. Kashare was born in La Grande and lived here until 1986. Following one year of high school she moved to Lake Oswego and graduated from West Linn High School.

Kashare, whose last name was Story when she lived in La Grande, said that growing up in a small town benefited her.

"It instilled small-town ethics and morals,'' she said.

While in La Grande, however, Kashare also observed the obstacles and problems that youths growing up in rural areas face. Her goal is to help youths in La Grande and other rural communities throughout the nation overcome them. She wants young people in rural areas to realize that other horizons are open to them.

"We want to let them know that they have options,'' Kashare said.

The problems faced by rural youths in the United States are substantial, Kashare said. She cites 1999 statistics from the Rural Policy Research Institute to make her point. The report indicates that rural eighth graders, when compared to those in large metropolitan areas, were:

• 52 percent more likely to have used cocaine in the past year.

• 32 percent more likely to have used marijuana in the past month.

• 20 percent more likely to have used alcohol in the past month.

• 6.9 percent less likely to have a high school diploma.

• 6 six percent less likely to go to college and 10 percent less likely to graduate from college.

RPRI also reported that teenage pregnancy rates in rural America are higher than in urban communities.

Kashare wants to help youths before they succumb to the potential pitfalls of growing up in a rural area.

"We want to reach kids before they get to the point that they are involved with things like drugs and alcohol,'' she said.

CARE, a non-profit organization, will have sub-posts in rural communities throughout the United States. At each one, young people will receive guidance and learn about the effects of drugs, alcohol and unprotected sex. Host families or sponsors will be available for guidance and direction.

Later the youths will have the opportunity to visit a metropolitan area to learn about the career, educational and technical training opportunities available to them. In some cases internships with companies participating in CARE may be set up.

Some host families will be in metropolitan areas. The families will provide the young people with a place to live, and guidance for taking advantage of opportunities in an urban setting.

"We do not want them to be thrown to the wolves. We don't want them to jump in without knowing what they are getting into. We will keep track of them,'' Kashare said.

At the same time they will have freedom to pursue anything they want.

"We want them to create a vision of their own,'' said Myken's husband Jon Kashare, who will be a member of CARE's board.

Myken Kashare noted that CARE is not meant to take young people out of rural areas. She stressed that young people have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams while remaining in La Grande if they take advantage of outside training opportunities.

La Grande is the first place CARE will have a sub-post. It will be operating by this fall. But it is just the start.

Within five years Kashare hopes to have at least one sub-post in every state

Kashare's first sub-post will be in La Grande because, she said, "I wanted to start where my heart is."

Sponsors, mentors and other volunteers are needed in Union County. Anyone interested in helping should contact Myken Kashare, either by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or by calling 310-264-0310.


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