The Vermont Youth Project (VYP) is a statewide initiative supporting communities with creating a built environment that embraces positive youth development. At the foundation of VYP are the annual key data findings that drive change. The project uses the Planet Youth data tool, designed and analyzed by researchers at the Icelandic Center for Social Research and Analysis. The survey is used to understand what are the current risk and protective factors in addition to perceptions of substance use.

Currently, there are five communities implementing the model at the fullest level. In these communities, local youth take a survey in the fall and communities receive the data findings eight weeks later so they know what’s going on with their youth right now. From there, the VYP community teams use the data to design action plans to move positive youth development work forward.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE SURVEY

The VYP survey is given every year in the fall with data released within eight weeks. There are two different surveys for middle and high school students and participation is voluntary. NEW for 2020-2021 the survey added questions around COVID-19. The multiple-choice questions cover five major domains that relate to protective and risk factors:

  • Family
  • Peer group
  • School
  • Out-of-school time or third space
  • Substance use

2021 BIG PICTURE FINDINGS

Note that the 2021 findings are an average of survey data from the five VYP communities.

COVID-19

  • 52% of 11th/12th graders say that they are more lonely due to COVID-19
  • 46% of high school students say that COVID-19 has made their mental health worse
  • 47% of high school students report that COVID-19 has worsened school connections and 57% of 11th/12th graders say it hurt their educational experience
  • Overall: COVID-19 has significantly impacted youth mental health and wellbeing.

MENTAL HEALTH

  • 41% of youth had nervousness and 35% had sleeping problems in the past week (before the survey was taken)
  • 28% of youth never felt confident in their ability to handle their personal problems and 29% never felt like things were going their way in the past month (before the survey was taken)
  • 38% of youth report that they felt difficulties were piling up so high that they could not overcome them sometimes or often in the past month
  • Overall: The global pandemic has prompted a rise in mental health concerns for youth.

FAMILY

  • 91% of middle schoolers and 89% of high schoolers report that it’s easy to receive caring and warmth from their parents
  • 93% of high school students stated that their parents know where they are in the evenings
  • 73% of high school students report their parents know the parents of their friends
  • Overall: Parental/caregiver support and monitoring are generally high but parental collaboration and co-communication is relatively low.

THIRD SPACE

  • 62% of students report that there are many social opportunities available in their community when they aren’t at home or school
  • 27% of 11th/12th grade students report staying out past midnight once or more a week
  • 74% of middle school students feel safe in their community
  • 46% of students would like to live in the same community in the future
  • Overall: Unorganized free time (e.g. late outside hours) and lack of participation in structured activities during out-of-school time is significant.

PEERS

  • 18% of 9th/10th grade students hang out at a friend’s home with no adult present
  • Overall: There is a culture of acceptance, particularly around alcohol and cannabis.

SUBSTANCE USE

  • 56% of 11th/12th grade students have tried alcohol, and 28% have used alcohol in the last 30 days
  • 30% of high school students have tried cannabis
  • 10% of 7/8 grade students, 25% of 9/10, and 42% of 11/12 students have tried e-cigarettes with 24% of 11/12 grade students using daily
  • Overall: Substance use rates are relatively high, particularly with alcohol, cannabis, and vaping.