Saturday, April 3, 2010

Safe Schools: Utilizing Youth Leadership Programs to Develop a Safe School Climate

Safe Schools: Utilizing Youth Leadership Programs to Develop a Safe School Climate
In developing school based approaches to create safe schools and positive school climates the single most important factor that youth leadership programs neglect to focus in on is the importance of developing a sense of belonging to a group identity for young people. We know that “After transition to middle school, peers become primary sources of support and motivation to achieve while the quality of teacher-student relationships tends to decline with time” (Wentzel, 1996). As we set a calendar each year to tackle the critical issues in youth development with great activities, assemblies, and orientations, we must first address the importance of a student body feeling included or connected to the youth leaders facilitating the activities. A major finding of 90,000 students grade 7-11 is that when students feel connected (i.e., feel close to people at school, happy to be at school, part of the school, treated fairly, feel safe) to their school that this “connectedness” is protective against every health risk behavior—alcohol use, suicidal attempts, teen pregnancy, and acts of violence towards others. It is this “connectedness” that we must establish as a foundation of our youth leadership program.
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