Youth First! is a 501 (c) 3 organization in Evansville which aims to strengthen youth and families and maximize student success through the prevention of substance abuse and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.
Their main areas of concern include depression, anxiety, anger, substance abuse, peer conflicts, home and family conflicts as well as divorce and/or grief adjustment. Over the last year, through their social work programs and services, Youth First! has achieved improved parent/child bonding, peer resistance, coping skills and decision making skills.
While here, they presented us with their annual impact statement for the 2012-2013 school year. While they currently serve Vanderburgh, Warrick, Gibson and Posey counties, they reported that 58 percent of schools still need service, and 54 percent of students still need access to Youth First!’s social work programs.
To illustrate just how much of an impact they are having on our communities, Youth First! reports 11 life-saving interventions each week. In one year, that equates to 572 potential lives saved!
Their primary reason for coming to the Statehouse, however, was to announce that they had received a $500,000 grant, and as a result, they would be hiring four new full-time social workers and providing services at eight schools, bringing their total to 34 master’s level social workers serving at least 47 schools in at least five counties in southwest Indiana.
They will also be providing 60 evidence-based programs at up to 20 schools. These programs focus on youth safety and measure their success based on individual student concerns, school adjustment, problem behaviors, risk and protective factors such as communication and coping skills, as well as the percentage of students who graduate and are promoted to the next level. In six months, the organization will report back to us on their progress.
If there is one thing I have learned during my time in the legislature, it is the vulnerability of our youth. I believe that protecting our youth and preserving their childhood is an important challenge that we face. Sometimes, however, there isn’t necessarily a legislative fix. The legislature alone cannot teach a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, commitment to self-improvement or the ability to overcome adversity.
That is why it is so important to have organizations like Youth First! who are committed to improving our communities and serving as champions of our youth. It was a pleasure to have them at the Statehouse last week, and I look forward to hearing their future successes.