Six communities in Vermont have signed a five-year commitment to participate in the Vermont Youth Project, a new initiative designed to boost positive youth development and protective factors on the local level.
The Vermont Youth Project will use the Planet Youth data tool, based on the Icelandic Model of Prevention, to survey middle and high school youth in the participating communities on risk and protective factors around family, school, peer groups, and out-of-school time activities in addition to perceptions of substance use. This Vermont model will work to align and amplify existing prevention work, as well as amplify youth voice on the local level.
“It’s the perfect time for us to connect the data to the practice to steer our efforts in a more cohesive way,” stated Chris Hultquist, executive director of The Mentor Connector and a member of the Rutland community team.
Participating communities are Enosburg, Fair Haven, Richford, Richmond, Rutland, and Swanton. Each community has an initial team that will build a local coalition including representatives from the school system, youth agencies, parents and caregivers, public health officials, afterschool and summer programs, clinical providers, law enforcement, policymakers, youth leaders, and/or community partners.
Teams were recently trained by Jon Sigfusson, director of Planet Youth at the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis, and Michael Mann, associate professor at Boise State University and Planet Youth community intervention specialist, on the data tool that will be administered in select schools this fall.
“Our goal is to change the social environment around kids and empower local community members to make practical decisions,” explained Dr. Mann. “We’re trying to marshal resources and people over time to address how and why youth are disengaged and help them to make healthy choices.”
Based on the real-time data that is tabulated in eight weeks, these teams will hold community meetings with the goal of developing and implementing strategies that will help youth thrive in the community, at school, and home with support and facilitation from Vermont Youth Project staff and consultants.
“We’re behind the ball here. We need this data right now so we can respond immediately,” emphasized Crystal Lampman, executive director of Franklin County Caring Communities and a member of the Enosburg, Richford, and Swanton teams.
The Vermont Youth Project is supported by Vermont Afterschool, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that children and youth in every Vermont community have access to high-quality out-of-school time programs.
“We’re thrilled to launch this project and help these communities think about creative, collaborative ways to help their youth succeed,” stated Vermont Afterschool Executive Director Holly Morehouse. “Our goals are all the same: we want to make Vermont the best place for a young person to grow up.”