Marina Cofer-Wildsmith, Executive Director of Bainbridge Youth Services, sees the three Bainbridge Island Healthy Youth Summits that have been held so far as a way to tackle a very real problem in our community: Surveys and focus groups of Bainbridge Island teens show high levels of stress and pressure to succeed, and many young people report a community culture that values what kids achieve more than who they are. This last Saturday, March 15, over 100 young people, parents, and community leaders including the Mayor and the School District Superintendent gathered at the Bainbridge High School Commons to identify ways our community can celebrate who kids are and not just what they do.
Cofer-Wildsmith said, “We wanted the community to be aware of the current behaviors and sentiments of our youth and begin to identify ways that we, as a community, need to shift our own thinking and our own behaviors.” Cezanne Allen, Board Chair for Raising Resilience, put it another way: “If it takes a village to raise a child, what does the village need to look like?”
One idea that emerged from summit participants was to provide mentorship for young people. The opening speaker, school consultant and international speaker Clay Roberts, addressed that idea in his presentation “Take a Moment, Make a Difference.” He asked people to reflect on their own childhoods to recall adults making a difference to them. Each participant then made a commitment to develop a deeper relationship with kids they know.
Another idea that came up was to create a community table with shared meals and conversation between adults and young people.
Co-facilitators Doug Nathan and recent BHS graduate Carolyn Milander guided 18 participant groups in generating a statement of beliefs about young people. Allen said that of all the work that came out of the summits she was “most proud of the aspirational values our community articulated”:
- We believe kids thrive in school and life when valued for who they are, not just for what they achieve. Their well-being depends on the development of caring relationships that nurture mind, body, and spirit.
- We believe children and teens are valued assets of our island, capable of significant contributions to our community. We aim for our young people to feel known and respected.
- We believe that happiness (a life of meaning and purpose) is the key to success; success is not the key to happiness.
- We believe in helping youth discover, explore, and develop their unique passions and interests and connect to their own aspirations for improving the world.
- We believe it takes a community working together to allow all children to reach their full potential.
- We believe in education that combines high academic standards with real world learning, meaningful service, and creative self-expression.
- We believe in fostering the inner resources and abilities youth need to lead productive and flourishing lives in the 21st century.
The three Healthy Youth Summits were the work of a partnership of organizations: Bainbridge Youth Services, Raising Resilience, Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island, and the Bainbridge Island School District. The organizations plan to continue to support the outcomes of the summits via a Facebook page. Another community summit is planned for next year. To see videos of past summits, visit www.bihealthyyouth.org.
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- First Bainbridge Healthy Youth Summit Draws a Crowd of Focused Parents and Other Community Members
- Don’t Miss the Tools for Raising Resilient Kids/Teens All-Day Workshop
- Parenting Author Laura Kastner Talks Thursday About Raising Successful Tweens & Teens
Photos by Quentin Wildsmith.