As long as there have been teenagers, adults have worried about them.
In 1996 the United Way organized 2 townwide forums on youth issues. They led to the formation of Positive Youth Development: a collaborative effort to support youngsters and their families in their homes, at school and throughout the community.
The goal was to prevent risky behavior by providing parental education and support, rather than correcting challenges after something happens.
Dialogue between groups resulted in new programs, including Toquet Hall, Community Service Corps, school psychologist meetings, Suniya Luthar’s research, a schoolwide substance abuse survey, and Risky Behavior Forums.
Now, 20 years after its formation, Positive Youth Development is being revitalized. Teenagers face new challenges (along with the old ones). Town organizations and non-profits have changed.
Information comes at us all in a firehose. In a torrent of emails, meeting notifications and online platforms, it’s easy to miss important ideas.
It’s time for the community to help its young people in different ways.
This morning, at Human Services’ 23rd annual breakfast for mental health professionals, the department will launch “Westport Together.”
It’s a new alliance that advocates for resilient youth, healthy families and strong communities; provides education through programs, presentations and resources, and enhances connections among families, schools and the entire town.
The PYD philosophy remains the same. But Westport Together hopes to enhance links between town and school programs; improve communication among partners and community members, and increase participation and information sharing.
A new website brings a number of youth, parenting and community programs together in one place. There are also pages for upcoming events, and a rich array of resources.
Westport Together alliance members include:
- Westport Public Schools
- Westport PTA
- Town of Westport (Human Services, Police, Fire, Parks & Recreation)
- Westport Library
- Positive Directions — Center for Counseling and Prevention
- RULER (parent group)
- Wakeman Town Farm
- Westport Museum for History and Culture
- Westport Prevention Coalition
- Westport Weston Health District
- Westport Family YMCA
Second selectman Jen Tooker helped lead the project, along with Human Services director Elaine Daignault, youth services program director Kevin Godburn and school district coordinator of psychological services Valerie Babich.
Tooker says, “This is more than a revitalization of PYD. It’s a declaration of our commitment to, and prioritization of, the health and well-being of our youth.
“We want Westporters to know this is not an easy topic to tackle. We understand it takes a village to support this initiative. The village is ready and working!”
Back in the day, Daignault adds, “when a kid walked through town, people knew him and looked out for him. There was less chance of risky behavior.
“With Westport Together, we hope to get back to that time when everyone looked out for our kids — together.”