07 July 2009

Engaging the next generation

Biloxi, Miss., is taking a different approach to supporting its young people with after-school and other programs, one that mixes community involvement, the mapping capability of the Web and the resources of Public Agenda's Center for the Advancement of Public Engagement.

Mapping Assets for Biloxi's Youth project uses technology to plot on a map all of the programs and community "assets" that serve youth in the area. Public Agenda, which advsied Biloxi on the effort, said the list includes everything from "parks and breakdancing groups to youth ministries, scholarships and summer camps."
The project has its own Web site so people can report and describe the assets they've found, as well as comment and discuss things as they move forward. They'll reconvene in person on July 24th to see how many things they were able to find and start thinking about how to better coordinate Biloxi's strengths on behalf of children and teens.
Anybody else see the potential for doing something similar in York County? Services related to at-risk youth and their families come to mind first. How about jobs programs aimed at the unemployed and underemployed?

- Dan Fink


Dr. George Waldner said...

For 3-4 years, some 6-7 years ago, I promoted after school programs for York. We brought in a speaker, who informed us about the Baltimore PAL model. At that time, however, the focus in York was on the first few years of life--brain development, etc. York College,nevertheless, offered annual professional development programs for care-givers and enrichment opportunities for students in existing, mainly church-based after-school programs. I based my interest in these programs on a community needs assessment that I conducted for the South George Street Community Partnership, which indicated that many good students lost focus on school at the 5th-6th grade level, and, subsequently, that it was almost impossible to snap them out of the "running the streets" life-style. That is the fundamental error with the "at-risk", "most-needy" concept of Federal programs. When a youth qualifies for help, he/she may well be too far gone, under most circumstances. You have to save the good kids, who are POTENTIALLY, at risk. The effort in York going forward should be an honors community service concept, bringing suburban and City youth together.

Deron Schriver said...

Great points from both of you! Taking action in this area would impact many facets of society, including: education, poverty/welfare, health/wellness, etc. My feeling has always been that children (and adults for that matter) stay on the right path as long as they perceive that there is hope for them. When there is an absence of hope, the potential negative consequences of making a bad decision tend to matter less because the feeling is that there is nothing to lose.

How can we instill hope at the critical age that Dr. Waldner mentioned? How can we show that there is a good life out there for those that choose the right path? Let's work together to answer these questions.

Dan - This is not unlike the obesity initiative that we've been discussing. I envision similar solutions to both problems.

gwdunham said...

This is the basic principle guiding the York County Council of Churches database that we are creating in partnership with the Safer Yor/Weed and Seed program. Although we initially were listing only faith-based youth programs, after school programs, etc, we realized it would better serve the Safer York initiative if we had a listing of ALL youth programs in one central database so that as broad a spectrum could be accessed at any one point. Our future plans include connecting the database to our new website and eventually including a web map by which you can locate programs per specified areas of the city. Needless to say. it is exciting for us to learn that something similar has already been in use in another city. As the YCCC begins to get information from the county churches and other organizations as well, we will be expanding the listing beyond York City. It goes without saying that the YCCC would be more than happy to help in any way we are able in making this kind of information available to the general public.

Guy Dunham, Executive Director

YorkCounts said...

Guy, what I thought was interesting about the Biloxi effort was the way they combined technology and community involvement. I liked the idea of a Web site that would be interactive and updated by the community - a kind of civic engagement Wiki. Deron, maybe the same Wiki-esque approach could be part of any obesity initiative.

Deron Schriver said...

Dan - I like the thought of a community-driven web component to an obesity initiative. It makes perfect sense in today's society. We don't want to lose that thought.

YorkCounts said...

Dr. Waldner - The city-county honors community service project is an interesting idea. How would you suggest such an effort be started? Who should take the lead?