If Children Are the Future, What Will the Future Bring?

ValenciaBy Ruth Valencia, Class 28
Salt River Project

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.   The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

A week has passed since we all attended the Youth Services Day, a day that was filled with a great deal of information about the state of our youth in Arizona and in our Scottsdale community.  We heard some alarming statistics, acknowledged the challenging and stressful environment that children are faced with today and were introduced to a number of innovative programs that are trying to address the issues.

Eric Alfrey from the Arizona Children’s Association gave a compelling talk about addressing behavioral health in children who face abuse, neglect, abandonment and mental health issues. He spoke about the importance of early intervention with both the child and the family. In fact, this, along with helping children build resilience, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-value, finding a sense of belonging and building social connections, represents the theme we heard throughout the day. Eric mentioned the 2012 Arizona Youth Survey, conducted by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, so I thought I’d take a look at what it showed. I encourage you to do the same if you are interested in this issue. It primarily assesses risk factors in children, grades 8 through 12. There were a few things that were rather surprising, such as 5% of respondents admitted to bringing a gun to school, and 40% of 8th graders said they were victims of bullying. But there was one statement in the report that kept coming back to me and I wanted to share it here. I would love to hear your thoughts and responses to it, especially when one considers the heavy focus on testing, testing and more testing in our schools. It said:

“Beginning in the late elementary grades (grades 4-6) academic failure increases the risk of both drug abuse and delinquency. It appears that the experience of failure itself, for whatever reasons, increases the risk of problem behaviors.”

One of the presentations that really surprised and impressed me was given by Marie Raymond, Early Literacy Coordinator at the Scottsdale Public Library. I mistakenly was hanging on to an old-fashioned image of the library as a quiet place where you only spoke in hushed tones for fear of being chastised by the librarian. Was I ever wrong! Our library system’s outreach program is quite impressive. They are even focused on making sure every baby becomes a reader, with programs that are targeted at infants and their parents to ensure that baby’s neurological pathways are fully developed. Their performance in developing partnerships and leveraging grant money to expand their programs to schools (pre-, charter and public), other libraries, and to the Fort McDowell community is laudable. Community based parent education programs, parent networking groups and family read aloud nights are examples of the library system’s ability to leverage funding. The next time you begin to think that you never see anything from your taxes, visit your local librarian. These are your tax dollars hard at work.

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2 Comments

Filed under Class, Leadership

2 responses to “If Children Are the Future, What Will the Future Bring?

  1. Lois Kinsella

    Ruth, your quote about failure experiences really strikes a chord with me. Whereas one person may take failure as a catalyst for positive change, others may accept it as normal and engage in risky behaviors which produce further failure. Raising a child on my own has had its challenges, however I am grateful for the positive people and experiences that I’ve been able to share with my daughter as she develops her own sense of normal. Oh, and we’ve loved going to the library over the years – still a favorite place to go when we have the time!

  2. Carrie Love

    Ruth, great post! My daughter is currently in 5th grade and I can not believe the amount of academic material the kids in 4th, 5th and 6th grades have to get through in a short amount of time. (I write this as my daughter is well into her 2nd hour of homework for the night). I believe that academic failure in this age group is just a piece of the puzzle that leads to problem behavior in later grades. Pressure to succeed in after school activities, to fit in socially (yes, in elementary school–thanks social media and online gaming!) and the fact that this is all happening while kids are starting to hit puberty play a huge roll in the path kids will take once they enter middle and high school. There are many other factors that go into this equation, so I don’t think it is as easy as saying academic failure increases the risk of drug use and delinquency.

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