FAIRMONT - In what ways can Fairmont schools and teachers, parents and community members boost support for local youth?
That was the big question asked Friday morning when members of the Healthy Youth committee held a workshop.
In November, Fairmont students in grades 7-11 were surveyed about the support they get from family and school, if they feel valued and safe, if they feel motivated to succeed, and how they feel about themselves and their future. Results were shared with Fairmont's businesses, city and county government, Human Services, and other public entities.
HER?VISION?— Erica Volkir of Services for Challenging Youth explained her group’s version of “Fairtopia,” or how to make the town of Fairmont a utopia for children, during Friday’s Healthy Youth committee meeting at Red Rock Center.
"We were surprised and pleased with the participation we saw," Fairmont Police Chief Greg Brolsma said of the turnout for Friday's meeting. "We had a wide cross-section of the community ... There were a lot of great ideas that were expressed that can be attained."
Compared to the same survey taken in 2002, there were gains in some areas, but losses in others. Areas such as responsibility and restraint from engaging in dangerous behavior were up 11 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Caring about students' school had the biggest increase of 15 percent, and having time at home increased by 13 percent.
But one of the big surprises was students feeling less safe. There was an 8 percent decrease in students reporting they feel safe at home, school and in their neighborhood.
"It is baffling since nothing has really changed in our community and crime has actually gone down in that time," Brolsma said. "We think the main change that we've seen is that everything is cyber-wired now, at home, on cell phones, and that cyber-bulling might be the reason for that number."
After being presented with the survey results, groups were asked to do some planning to make Fairmont a "utopia" for children. Some made posters; others made lists. And while a few listed specific things such as clean parks and bike trails, all the groups realized that true change comes from within, and at home.
"The whole notion on targeting the health of the family unit, it's one of those things that makes great sense," Brolsma said.
Participants also were asked to pick out what they believe are the most important issues in the survey. "Adult role models" collected the most votes, with responsibility, family support and positive family communication also receiving high marks. Safety, community youth, planning and decision-making, and youth given useful roles were also mentioned.
"Now the question is how to turn these assets into initiatives," said Wes Pruitt, a human resource consultant who was emceeing the event. "What it takes is community action ... The word 'community' is composed of 'common unity.' And a common unity of building assets for children is one of those 'win-win' situations that doesn't happen very often."
Where the ideas and action go from here will be tackled in a follow-up event on April 13 at the Knights of Columbus Hall. The event is open to anyone interested in attending.