FAIRMONT - A local organization has received the 2012 Youth Contribution Award from the Minnesota Community Education Association.
Youth First represents four separate entities sharing a common goal in Martin County: to help all "youth develop to their full potential in a healthy and nurturing environment with family and community support."
The organization formed in 2004, when leaders from several groups realized they could make more of a difference by teaming up.
"There were so many of us working in different ways," said Roni Dauer of Community Education and Recreation.
Forming under Youth First allowed board members from Fairmont Area Early Childhood Initiative, Healthy Youth, Services for Challenging Youth/Fairmont Substance Abuse Prevention and the Agricultural Education Partnership to form a non-profit entity, allowing access to more grants.
Fairmont Area Early Childhood Initiative includes a home visitor to families of children ages zero to 5; KinderCamp; early learning and literacy promotions; scholarships for youth to participate in various sports and activities through Martin County Youth Foundation; and Parent Education in the Workplace.
The Healthy Youth program includes conducting Search Institute Asset Surveys in grades 7, 9 and 11 at public and parochial schools; SPARK youth summit; Youth Activities Expo; listening lunches with high school students and community leaders; and much more.
Services for Challenging Youth/Fairmont Substance Abuse Prevention was awarded a five-year prevention and intervention grant in 2011 and is working closely with the high school in activities such as Community Service Day; Most of Us chemical reduction program; and developing educational, prevention programs in elementary and high school.
The Agricultural Education Partnership is the newest entity of Youth First, having raised more than $300,000 during the past year to create an Ag Academy at Fairmont Area High School, with pledges from ag-related businesses.
Each of the four groups maintains separate boards and funding.