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Building Relationships with Youth: A Pathway To Resiliency

According to data from the Pennsylvania Area Youth Survey (a comprehensive survey given to students across Pennsylvania in 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grade), youth in Erie County have a lower percentage of Neighborhood Attachment than the state average and their percent of Community Rewards for Pro-Social Involvement (recognition for participation in non-school related activities) is significantly lower than the state average.

Two glaring pieces of data came from recent surveys: 48% of youth in Erie County have low Neighborhood Attachments and are at a higher risk of becoming involved with risky behaviors. The second data point was that only 38% of Erie County youth feel that that the Community supports them.

These are numbers that we can change. By community members stepping up and noticing youth, youth will feel more connected to their neighborhoods and develop a since of pride in their accomplishments.

Additional data shows that only 28% of youth have 4 or 5 strong adult relationships, while 40% of youth say they have only one or no strong adult relationships.

Every youth needs at least 5 positive adult relationships in their lives helping them become successful. These adult relationships can have a varying degree of intensity. Many adults can remember not only the Mrs. Grant that lived on the corner who always said hello when they walked by, but also the piano teacher who always took that extra time to hear about what was happening in their lives. These relationships helped mold them into what they are now. Now it’s our turn to help youth become all they want to be. By adults taking the time to say hello, volunteer at an after-school program, attend a local youth theater event, or coach a little league team, youth are learning that they matter in the world and that others are there to help them.

According to Search Institute research: Young people do best when they experience strong, positive relationships in all parts of their lives. Research to date shows that young people who experience strong developmental relationships across different parts of their lives are more likely to show signs of positive development in many areas, including: • Increased academic motivation; • Increased social-emotional growth and learning; • Increased sense of personal responsibility; and • Reduced engagement in a variety of high-risk behaviors.

PYD programming and initiatives center around the 40 Developmental Asset and Developmental Relationships frameworks from the Search Institute. The Search Institute has identified 40 positive supports and strengths that young people need to succeed. Half of the assets focus on the relationships and opportunities they need in their families, schools, and communities (external assets). The remaining assets focus on the socio-emotional strengths, values, and commitments that are nurtured within young people (internal assets). Research shows that youth are protected from myriad risk factors, and experience the advantageous outcomes of protective factors, as the number of assets that they report in their lives increase. Local data at support this narrative. For example, students in the Union City School District receive better grades, experience fewer behavioral referrals, and are less likely to miss school as the number of assets they report increase. More recent work from the Search Institute has focused on Developmental Relationships, which underscores the importance of promoting assets to build positive and meaningful relationships with youth. Research shows that the extent to which relationships contain five key elements – expressing care, challenging growth, providing support, sharing power, and expanding possibilities – the more likely that the relationship will succeed in building assets among youth.

The good news is, everyone can help. Relationship building can take on many forms and intensities. If you have a special talent, sewing, cooking, playing basketball, connect with a local school or community center and offer your time to teach youth your talent. Say hello to the youth in your neighborhood, attend a local sporting event to cheer on the students, go to local school’s musical performances. To make the Erie community aware of the impact that relationships can have on a child’s life, Positive Youth Development is launching an awareness campaign in Erie County. The multi-level public awareness campaign, will be aimed at empowering youth to stand up and make a difference while simultaneously igniting the community to step up and notice youth.

Positive Youth Development of Erie County is a county-wide collaborative initiative that utilizes the 40 Developmental Assets® framework created by Search Institute® to make Erie County, Pennsylvania the premiere place for youth to grow up great. PYD recognizes the need to expand beyond crisis management by promoting strategies that increase youth's connections to positive relationships and experiences. As a part of the Susan Hirt Hagen CORE, the PYD initiative is made possible with funding from United Way of Erie County and The Janet Neff Civility Center.

Positive Youth Development week is October 7 – 11, 2019. It is a week focused on activities empowering community members to take time with the youth around them, family building events, networking opportunities, and awards to outstanding asset ambassadors both individual and an organization. All events are free and open to the public. Registration and more information can be found at The Positive Youth Development of Erie County Website.

On Monday, October 7,2019 at Iroquois High School, students and adults from a variety of schools and organizations will gather to kick off the 2019 Positive Youth Development Week. Students will express to the community why Adults matter in their lives. We will also honor both and individual and an organization on their impact on asset building for the youth in Erie County. This individual and organization have made it their mission to help all youth succeed in life.

Monday’s Press Conference will feature two local students that through their adult connections have discovered a bright future. On Monday evening, The Union City Area School District will host a Family Fun Game Night from 5:30 – 7. This event will include games, dinner, and prizes. Tuesday will be a Networking Breakfast held at The Highmark Caring Place at 8 am. Breakfast speakers will be the youth from the Strong Vincent Positive Youth Development Group and representatives from United Way discussing the needs and opportunities available through the Community Schools. Wednesday will be a FREE 40 Developmental Asset Training held at Knowledge Center at Penn State Behrend from 10 - 12. Thursday will be the Youth Work Awards at Elevate Church at 9 am. The week will commence with a Youth Summit held at Penn State Behrend from 9 – 1:30, an event empowering youth to make a difference in the world around them.

Regardless of what it is, MAKE a point to make a difference in the youth’s lives around, not only during PYD week but throughout the year.


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