Survey: Darien teens don't feel valued in community
A recent survey of Darien teens revealed that most students don't feel valued in the community.
Darien's Youth Asset Team presented the results of an asset development survey conducted by students in grades seven through 12 at a Board of Selectmen meeting Monday.
The survey, created by the Search Institute in Minneapolis, was conducted in 2008 and 2011. The results show the percentage of 1,830 anonymous Darien students who have certain assets among a list of 40.
Among the lowest percentages of assets students reported having were participating in creative activities, parent involvement in schooling and the young person's perception that their community values youth.
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Marguerite Morgan, YAT co-chairman and Darien High School student, told BOS members she was surprised by the percentage of students who reported they didn't feel the community valued them. This asset went from 33 percent in 2008 to 31 percent 2011.
"I think some of the disconnect comes from (there being) so many programs in town oriented toward the youth, yet the youth doesn't feel valued, because they're not necessarily a part of creating these programs," Morgan said. "They're not asked what they think of these programs or what programs they want."
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson agreed.
"I see so much of what we do and so many of the resources we have here in town dedicated to you," Stevenson said. "And I think it's really important to us to take that feedback. Obviously we want you to feel valued."
YAT members have already presented the survey results to various groups, including the Board of Education, the Community Fund of Darien Board of Directors, the high school parent teacher organization and the Counsel of Darien High School parents, according to Martha Rhein, coordinator of Thriving Youth Connected Community.
Stevenson asked if parents have been receptive to the team's presentations of the asset survey.
"Last year we hosted panels for the parents of elementary schools and middle schools, talking about the assets, and it kind of turned into a question and answer," Morgan said. "They were asking questions about the high school or about parenting or anything really. I think they really listened to what we said and were really interested."
The survey is divided into external assets focused on family, school and community support, and internal assets, which focus on personal commitments, values, competencies and identity. It also measures the correlation between assets and both risky and thriving behaviors, or what the survey calls "the power to protect" and "the power to promote."
"As a community, you really have to build these assets in the youth," Rhein said. "That really is the biggest point of developing the assets around youth, that they really do have the power to protect our kids from engaging in risky behaviors. You can see, if kids have 31 or more assets, they're not involving in risky behaviors."
Rhein said she thought the BOS' reaction to the survey and YAT's presentation was also a positive one.
"I heard, as a group, they would like to engage youth as resources if and when there's an issue, or something that makes sense where youth input would be helpful and useful," Rhein said.
Stevenson said she would like to find ways for students to be more a part of town government.
"Obviously all the decisions we make as a board have a dramatic effect on your life," Stevenson said.
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