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.