David Oeffling got his wake-up call soon after college, when it dawned on him that life was not all it had been cracked up to be. He said he had mistakenly assumed that with a college degree, the American dream would be his for the taking.
But when he returned to Agoura Hills from San Diego State University, he found that the job market was tight, most of his friends from high school had moved on, and that he would have to move back in with his parents. Loneliness and frustration, he said, became constant companions.
"It takes time to get over the fact that it's Friday night, and I'm going out to Blockbuster and rent a movie," he said.
Then Oeffling discovered the Conejo Future Foundation, an organization dedicated to enhancing the Conejo Valley's quality of life. The foundation, which wanted to learn more about the needs and aspirations of the region's young, had put together a task force of young people whose mission was to come up with solutions to the problems they faced.
The task force, which has completed its work, plans to begin presenting its study to area city councils. Task force members hope local governments will use the study to help shape policies affecting people between 18 and 30.
Oeffling, 27, said he discovered that the nine-member task force was made up of people just like him: "baby busters," suburban college graduates who were disillusioned and wanted to bring about change. They began the study about two years ago and have become fast friends. Oeffling discovered that, as he worked on the task force, his confidence grew and he felt better prepared to enter the job market.
"They are such a different group now than when they first got together," said Agoura Hills City Clerk Pat Manning, who helped form the task force. "One by one, they have become real success stories, and we have watched them find their place in the Conejo Valley. They have really matured."
The task force's report focuses on recreation, housing, employment and politics. One problem is that younger adults throughout the region are socially isolated, the report says.
"We have teen centers, we have senior centers, but no real place--other than bars--where you can form meaningful relationships with people," said 26-year-old Amy Jones, a recreation coordinator for Calabasas. She predicted that a planned Barnes & Noble bookstore in Thousand Oaks will become a "main place to meet."
Build more affordable housing, the report also urges, and make sure financing is available as well. High schools should step up efforts to provide career counseling, and area employers should hold job seminars. The task force also urges young adults to become involved in local politics.
The group owes a lot to the Conejo Future Foundation, said 28-year-old James T. Friedl Jr. a deputy city attorney in Thousand Oaks and an Agoura Hills planning commissioner.
"We wouldn't be here it it weren't for the older adults," he said. "But now, I feel like we need to do it ourselves."