By Theresa Dolezal, CCHP Youth Development and Communications Coordinator
The room chattered and energy sparked as more than 25 middle and high school students from across Carver County gathered for the first countywide Community Youth Action Crew (CYAC) Youth Leader training on November 10. The event, facilitated by the Carver County Health Partnership and the University of Minnesota Youth Work Institute, introduced student Youth Leaders representing five community based teams to the Carver County CYAC, an effort to create a map of the county with the places and activities youth identify as important for their lives.
The November training was the first of three countywide meetings to be held between now and May, 2011. At this first training, the CYAC teams began the first phase of the project - interviewing other youth and community members about what opportunities and resources exist, and what is still needed in Carver County for young people to develop as happy and healthy individuals. After the CYAC Youth Leaders have collected their interview data, they will begin the second phase of the project, creating a map of the county. This map will include the information that was discovered from their interviews regarding the available places and opportunities that exist for youth to be engaged. Once the map is complete, the CYAC Youth Leaders will enter into the third and final phase of the project, a social marketing campaign to generate awareness and share information from the map within their communities.
The CYAC model was originally designed and implemented by the University of Minnesota in urban neighborhoods within the Minneapolis metro area. Although a few rural cities have used the CYAC model, Carver County is the first to tackle the project as a county. With the implementation of the project in the county, the unique dynamics of the area have been considered. For example, the county has both suburban (Eastern Carver County) and rural (Western Carver County) youth. Therefore, youth experiences vary widely in terms of resources, programs, activities and access to transportation. This has had a direct impact on the way each of the teams have set out to collect their interview data. In total, the five teams have a goal of having 1000 interviews with youth and 250 interviews with community members throughout the county. Information collected by the five area teams will be compiled on one countywide map.
Because past CYAC projects have primarily been in urban neighborhoods, the countywide efforts in Carver County have required adaptation, expansion and on-going revisions. To help, the project coordinator with the Carver County Health Partnership has worked closely with adults from throughout the county to determine how best to implement the project within the different suburban and rural areas. In addition, the University of Minnesota Youth Work Institute is working closely with the Carver County Health Partnership from a support standpoint, and once the project is complete, the Youth Work Institute will integrate the Carver County Health Partnership's recommendations and findings to help create a replicable model for other counties throughout the state. Eventually, the goal is to map every county in Minnesota using the CYAC model.
As future CYAC projects take place, it is clear that whether it is done in an urban or rural setting or whether it involves a single neighborhood or it involves communities countywide, the CYAC model is a useful way to help identify and encourage community health. According to the Search Institute, healthy communities place a high emphasis on youth-centered activities and opportunities, and strategically try to help build assets for young people's developmental needs. Because the CYAC project is identifying what these activities and opportunities are, it is a perfect time for communities to assess how they rate in terms of supporting youth development.
As communities throughout the state help identify what activities exist and establish new opportunities for young people, they will naturally help build external assets including support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations and opportunities to use their time constructively. With these elements in place, youth and communities lay the building blocks for healthy personal and community development. The Carver County Health Partnership CYAC is excited to be the first of many counties throughout the state to work with the University of Minnesota Youth Work Institute to help make our state a better place to grow as a young person.
For more information on the work being done by the Carver County Health Partnership and the University of Minnesota Youth Work Institute, contact Theresa Dolezal at email@example.com or Beki Saito at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also watch the progress of the Carver County CYAC by visiting the Carver County Health Partnership website, www.cchealthpartnership.org, and clicking on the CYAC Blog tab.