Snoqualmie Valley Community Network’s Youth Development Program
Youth Development is a strategic priority for the Snoqualmie Valley Community Network, and the elements that are part of our Youth Development Program have been carefully selected to increase youths’ attachment to the community and to provide youth with the tools they need to be successful, healthy citizens. The core areas of our Youth Development Program are: Youth Leadership (includes youth leadership groups and Be the Change Summit), Pre-employment Skill Development, Youth Suicide and Substance Abuse Prevention, and Positive Mentoring.
The Youth Leadership component provides valley youth in middle and high school with opportunities to develop leadership and project coordination skills as they plan healthy youth activities (movie nights, jam sessions, fundraisers), coordinate and lead community service projects (preparing and serving meals at Tent City, hosting a Sox in a Box sock drive for Hopelink, developing bullying prevention videos to share with other students, hosting a Save the Theater car wash for the North Bend Theater, and more!), and actively seeking out ways to share the youth voice in our community. The Be the Change Summit is an event for middle school aged students that is held annually in the Snoqualmie Valley. The older teens assist in planning the event and in facilitating some of the sessions. This is an excellent opportunity for older teens to mentor and teach and for the younger students to start to realize their leadership skills and the power they have to make a positive impact in the community.
The Pre-employment Skills Development component provides youth with opportunities to explore future career opportunities as well as practice the crucial skills needed to seek employment. We work with students & staff in the two local school districts to plan activities that are relevant to youth. Efforts have included:
- Hosting a Job Seekers Institute where student participants learn first-hand how to create a resume, dress for an interview, and answer questions confidently in an interview.
- Hosting a Career Mentor lunch where students have the opportunity to sit with at least one adult currently working in the students’ intended career area. Both student and adult participants reported that this is a rewarding experience.
The Youth Suicide and Substance Abuse component provides youth with key skills to help themselves or peers who may be in need. To address Youth Suicide, older teens are engaged to become peer trainers for the How to Help a Friend suicide prevention training. We find that younger students pay closer attention to the message when it is being delivered from an older student than if it is being delivered by an adult. The training is both school and community-based. It is our goal to provide this training at least every two years to students in the valley with a shorter booster training in the middle years. In the 2014-15 school year, close to 1000 students in the valley received this training. The community will have the opportunity to be trained this spring as well. To address Youth Substance Abuse, we offer a Just Say No! workshop each fall for parents and their students ages 11-14. Adult participants learn the importance of guidance, monitoring, and consequences while youth learn concrete strategies that can be used when faced with peer pressure. Additionally, we work with community partners (law enforcement, Friends of Youth, PTAs) to hold Community Awareness events designed to help the community understand current challenges related to youth substance abuse and strategies for engaging youth in meaningful ways.
The Youth Success! Mentoring component is a new program and we are excited to launch it in the spring of 2016. Mentoring is a positive youth development strategy that is one of the most effective and economical dropout prevention strategies. Research shows that having the positive influence of a mentor makes a real difference in the life of a youth. In general, kids with mentors: have better school attendance and improved GPA, report improved parent and peer relationships, are 46% less likely to initiate drug use and 27% less likely to use alcohol, and are 33% less likely to engage in physical violence.