Empower Youth Network’s Youth Development Program
Youth Development is a strategic priority for the Empower Youth Network, and the elements that are part of our Youth Development Program have been carefully selected to increase youths’ attachment to the community and to provide youth with the tools they need to be successful, healthy citizens. The core areas of our Youth Development Program are: Youth Leadership (includes youth leadership groups and Be the Change Summit), Pathways to Employment Success, Youth Suicide and Substance Abuse Prevention, Youth Success! Mentoring, and Weekend Power Packs.
The Youth Leadership component provides valley youth in middle and high school with opportunities to develop prevention skills, leadership, and project coordination skills as they plan healthy youth activities (movie nights, jam sessions, fundraisers), coordinate and lead community service projects (preparing and serving meals at Tent City, hosting a Sox in a Box sock drive for Hopelink, developing bullying prevention videos to share with other students, hosting a Save the Theater car wash for the North Bend Theater, and more!), and actively seeking out ways to share the youth voice in our community. The Be the Change Summit is an event for middle school aged students that is held annually in the Snoqualmie Valley. The older teens assist in planning the event and in facilitating some of the sessions. This is an excellent opportunity for older teens to mentor and teach and for the younger students to start to realize their leadership skills and the power they have to make a positive impact in the community.
The Pathways to Employment Success component provides youth with opportunities to explore future career opportunities as well as practice the crucial skills needed to seek employment. We work with students & staff in the two local school districts to plan activities that are relevant to youth. Efforts have included:
- Hosting Career Exploration events where teens have the opportunity to learn about the variety of career paths available to them.
- Hosting Job Seeker Institutes where student participants learn first-hand how to create a resume, dress for an interview, and answer questions confidently in an interview.
- Hosting Career Mentor lunches where students have the opportunity to sit with at least one adult currently working in the students’ intended career area. Both student and adult participants reported that this is a rewarding experience.
The Youth Suicide component provides youth with key skills to help themselves or peers who may be in need. Older teens are engaged to become peer trainers for the How to Help a Friend suicide prevention training. We find that younger students pay closer attention to the message when it is being delivered from an older student than if it is being delivered by an adult. The training is both school and community-based. It is our goal to provide this training at least every two years to students in the valley with a shorter booster training in the middle years. In the 2018-19 school year, more than 1800 students in the valley received this training. The community also received training related to stress, depression, and suicide prevention.
#BeKindSV is the second part of EYN’s suicide prevention program. Positive school climate is key in establishing a foundation of regular, proactive support while preventing unwanted behaviors. #BeKindSV supports positive school climate by introducing, modeling, and reinforcing #BeKindSV and inclusion. This program is a universal support for all students, school-wide. Through the #BeKindSV campaign, students:
- Practice using kindness behaviors with one another.
- Practice recognizing when others have been kind.
- Celebrate kindness within the school.
Through the #BeKindSV campaign, adults (school staff and parents):
- Practice reinforcing kindness behaviors.
- Practice recognizing when kindness behaviors are being used.
- Celebrate kindness within the school and the home.
To address Youth Substance Abuse, we offer the five-week Guiding Good Choices (for parents with students ages 9-14) class annually. Adult participants learn the importance of guidance, monitoring, and consequences while youth learn concrete strategies that can be used when faced with peer pressure. EYN is leading two positive messaging campaigns (#BeSmartDontStart and #YourLifeYourChoice) designed to correct teen misperceptions of substance use. Additionally, we work with community partners (law enforcement, Friends of Youth, PTAs) to hold Community Awareness events designed to help the community understand current challenges related to youth substance abuse and strategies for engaging youth in meaningful ways.
The Youth Success! Mentoring program is a positive youth development strategy that is one of the most effective and economical dropout prevention strategies. Research shows that having the positive influence of a mentor makes a real difference in the life of a youth. In general, kids with mentors: have better school attendance and improved GPA, report improved parent and peer relationships, are 46% less likely to initiate drug use and 27% less likely to use alcohol, and are 33% less likely to engage in physical violence. The program is currently in 11 Snoqualmie Valley Schools and EYN is working to expand the program to all area schools.
The Empower Youth Network is committed to Weekend Power Packs in the Riverview School District area. Weekend Power Packs provide supplemental food to youth in the area who may face food scarcity over the weekends. Each pack contains two breakfasts, two lunches, four snacks, and two drinks. This community-based, grass roots effort takes a different format at each school to best meet the needs of the students at that school. In the 2018-19 school year, more than 19,000 meals were provided locally through the Weekend Power Pack program.