Focus on Youth 2010
  Chippewa Valley Coalition hosts Focus on Youth event  
  By Nicole Tuttle, Voice Reporter  
  The Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families hosted its biennial Focus on Youth at the Boys and Girls Club in Shelby Township from 8 a.m. to noon.  
  Held every two years, the event is used to gather information that serves as the basis for future campaigns and initiatives for the coalition according to Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families Executive Director Charlene McGunn.  
  "It gives youth the opportunity to tell us what their concerns are," McGunn said. "Very often as adults we make assumptions, and based on those assumptions, we create strategies and programs. We need to address their needs and what they feel is important. We need to check in and find out in reality what they are thinking and what they identify their needs to be so that we can validate our assumptions or create programs that better meet their needs and offer them the opportunity to engage in dialogue."  
  One hundred and twenty students from Dakota High School in Macomb Township, Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township and Mohegan High School in Clinton Township met with about 64 adults to discuss topics of importance to them. Adults included Macomb County Sheriff's Office Capt. Anthony Wickersham and Dakota High School Ninth Grade Center Principal Kimberly Voss.  
  The day began with opening remarks from Boys and Girls Club Director Katie Williams, Chippewa Valley Schools Superintendent Mark Deldin, who will become the first Macomb County deputy county executive in January, and students from Dakota as well as Chippewa Valley High School.  
  "Students were actively involved in the organization of the event," McGunn said.  
  Concerns under discussion included legal issues such as texting and driving, safety issues such as cyber bullying, social issues such as depression, transition issues such as making the move from middle to high school, community issues such as volunteering, social issues such as "sexting," education issues such as school stress and family issues such as parent support.  
  Chippewa Valley Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Ron Roberts, who was named as the district's interim superintendent on Dec. 13, said he attended the Dec. 8 seminar. The students were broken into groups of about 12 which included fellow students and community members as well as a facilitator to lead the discussions about relevant teen issues.  
  "It could be social issues, it could be school issues, friendships, relationships with others, with teachers, with the law," Roberts said on Dec. 13. "Then what happens is information is collected from the students and this is really pretty basic. It's what they think. It is unfiltered because that data is wanted by the coalition. The coalition takes that data and plans a campaign based around what they think are the most important points that they learn."  
  Roberts said the group he participated in was his first choice of a group; the group that focused on transitions. The transitions group discussed such changes as making the move from eighth to ninth grade or the transition from ninth to 10th grade and even the transition from high school to college.  
  Roberts described the discussion experience as "enlightening."  
  "What I wanted to learn about there was just to hear what they think about how we prepare them for each new level that they go to," Roberts said. "Just so that would help us plan because that is so important."  
  McGunn said that the transitions issue was one that teens found very important, especially the transition to life after high school.  
  Some of the other major themes that emerged from the discussions included the need teens feel to let their parents know that they have concerns beyond adolescence.  
  "One issue was for parents, and we have heard this before, but we heard it more intently; kids want their parents to know that they are experiencing stress," McGunn said. "Not just the stresses of adolescence ... in some families, the economic stresses, the stresses also of family life. Students were very, very direct in talking about their desire for parents ... to be parents. They want them to be available, the want them to talk with them, not over control them, but to set guidelines and limits."  
  McGunn said that teens also expressed concerns about the behavior of students younger than themselves.  
  "They mentioned concerns about the sexual behavior of younger and younger kids and the influences of the media," McGunn said.  
  The information collected from the Focus on Youth seminar is more important to the coalition's work than even hard numbers obtained from surveys.  
  "This data is more helpful than survey data ... it is not numerical, it gives you a sense of what is going on in their minds," McGunn said. "It offers a sense of motivation not only the behavior."  
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