By the Echo Press Editorial Board
Sometimes a simple act can have a profound impact.
Like adults taking an active and genuine interest in the lives of young people.
That point came up at the Aug. 12 Alexandria City Council meeting when Katie Strickler, coordinator for the Healthy Voices Healthy Choices Coalition updated the council on the coalition’s efforts.
Strickler noted that the coalition, which is in its third year of a five-year grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, is launching a new “We Care” campaign to make a positive impact in young people’s lives.
The simple act: Having local business leaders greet students at Alexandria Area High School as they walk into the school.
“Students, if they feel adults care for them, have less chance of substance abuse,” she told council members.
Her point is backed up by Brian McNeill an extension educator in Morris. In a research paper, McNeill noted that non-parental adults in community organizations play an important role with youth. He pointed to studies that were done with 4-H youth, which showed adults in their 4-H clubs make them feel important (65 percent) and listen to them (64 percent). In addition, most youth reported that their volunteer leaders do pay attention to them (74 percent). McNeil said adults can use their knowledge and skills to help guide a young person in a positive direction.
In addition to the “We Care” campaign, the coalition has put other simple ideas into action that could have lasting outcomes:
Distributing “conversation starter” kits to spark meaningful communication between youth and parents.
Promoting a positive community norms media campaign that focuses on the positive instead of using scare tactics to convince students not to use alcohol.
Supporting two newly formed student peer groups, Cardinal Club (7th and 8th graders from Discovery Middle School) and VIBE (Voice, Influence, Build, Educate at AAHS) for students interested in making positive changes within their schools.
Other recent programs in the area are also reaching out to young people. The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission is recruiting adults to become a Freshman Academy Network — FAN — coach at the Alexandria Area High School.
FAN coaches will be part of a team that takes responsibility for coaching freshmen students to build character and life skills by leading small group discussions during regularly scheduled visits.
Training starts Wednesday, Aug. 28 for new and returning FAN coaches. For more information, email Abby Strom at the AAEDC at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 320-763-4545.
Those interested in learning more about the Healthy Voices Healthy Choices effort or to join the coalition, may contact Katie Strickler at email@example.com or at 320-762-2142, ext, 4617.
These opportunities for adults to connect with young people are exciting and have the potential to make a huge positive difference in our area. More adults should come on board.