Through the Ready Youth initiative, the Forum for Youth Investment is providing the communities with tools and technical assistance to collect and analyze data about youth, then use the findings as a catalyst to carry out community conversations – conversations that drive solutions.
“Getting youth ready for the future requires tackling all aspects of youth well-being, from social and emotional connections to academic success,” said Forum CEO Karen Pittman. “Ready Youth combines new data with multi-level communications strategies to help leaders find and fill the readiness gaps.”
The six communities – the greater Atlanta, St. Louis and Richmond, Va., areas; Indianola, Miss.; San Marcos, Texas; and the U.S. Virgin Islands – recently took step one by implementing the Gallup Student Poll, which each year measures the hope, engagement and well-being of young people in schools throughout the country. But while school districts participating in the Gallup poll receive data reports by school and grade, Gallup (a Ready by 21 National Partner) will give Ready Youth communities more: data by zip code, age, gender, race/ethnicity and living arrangement, allowing for better analytic power and comparisons with other youth and community data.
This new data will prove invaluable, said Kelli Parmley, executive director of Bridging Richmond, the lead agency for Ready Youth in that city: “There is a lot of interest and energy around middle school performance, and being able to have the social and emotional data to compliment the academic [data] helps to create a more robust picture when considering what to do.”
What’s more, the Forum will work with communities to combine poll findings with existing community data on children and youth, such as delinquency, employment and poverty rates, to create a customized picture of each community’s young people.
“By doing this, community leaders can see and analyze previously unconnected data in new ways,” Pittman said, “allowing them to take stock of how youth are doing in various aspects of their lives, and how they perceive themselves and their place in the community.”
The data collection and analysis lays the foundation for action. The Forum will work hand-in-hand with community leaders to set up a series of community conversations involving students, business owners, elected officials, teachers, parents and others. These conversations are designed to generate action to address specific findings or to compile more data (such as the presence of afterschool programs in neighborhoods where youth report low levels of engagement).
The Forum will then provide guidance on how to track commitments that spring from the community conversations. The communities will be encouraged to repeat the poll and reconvene stakeholders to see how much change has been accomplished and to make adjustments.
The focus is on solutions. “Many of our school districts are deeply involved in programs that address school climate and culture,” said David Kuschel, communications director for the Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis. “The data they receive by participating in this program will be invaluable to them as they address school climate issues.”
Ready Youth is the first in a new series of Community Catalyst packages offered by the Forum to help leaders carry out specific Ready by 21 strategies. The Forum will seek to engage more communities in Ready Youth in 2013, starting with the administration of the Gallup Student Poll next fall. For more information, call 202-207-3333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.