An information and action event in Fargo was aimed at finding new ways to engage youth in the community to ensure they continue avoiding risky behaviors.
Jeff Schatz is a retiring superintendent with Fargo Public Schools. He presented some data to local stakeholders at the Addiction: Information into Action meeting in Fargo that suggests how important a teen's community involvement can be when it comes to the likelihood that they'd use drugs or alcohol.
"Kids who had higher levels of social capital on the index that was developed for that tended to engage in far less types of at risk behavior. So that's really the key to it. When you look at the charts and see that line going straight down across the bottom is the number of at risk behaviors kids have engaged in, and so the more of those at risk behaviors the lower levels of social capital they tended to have."
Schatz says "social capital" is the level of a teen's participation and connection in their surrounding community and peer groups.
Christina Hemmer works at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch as Vice President for Clinic Services. She's also the parent sector representative for Level Up, an organization whose mission is to increase connections in the community that help area youth continue to make good decisions. She says the idea that a more engaged teen would avoid risky behavior isn't shocking - but it's always good to have the conversations on how to continue to keep youth involved, and work on ways to improve community engagement. Hemmer says part of that is helping parents to understand they aren't alone.
"It's summer right now, and I have a lot of parents out there who would love to get their kids to sports and activities, but they work. Do you sacrifice work so your kids can get to these great sports that would be pro-social things that would help them avoid some things, or how do you figure that out? Now what if that parent didn't feel shame in asking for help? That's a piece, that's decreasing stigma for me - it's decreasing parental shame."
The Addiction: Information into Action meeting also included a discussion on the Drug Free Communities Grant, as well as a public forum of the mayor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Addiction to discuss steps the community is taking to end addiction.