YAC Team Leader, St. Croix Foundation
ST. CROIX FOUNDATION YOUTH ADVISORY COUNCIL RELEASES “ANSWERS FOR CHANGE” SURVEY RESULTS
The St. Croix Foundation Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is pleased to release the results of their revealing youth survey, entitled “Answers for Change.” The survey was developed entirely by YAC members to gain information from their peers about the challenges facing youth in their community.
The 44 question survey addresses issues surrounding school climate, school safety, future academic plans, and personal motivators, and was distributed to private and public schools on St. Croix. In total, over 900 surveys were tallied during the spring of 2012.
The Youth Advisory Council, which was created by the St. Croix Foundation in 2009, is a youth philanthropy group made up of 16 students from St. Croix private and public middle and high schools. The Council was founded with the express goals of engaging youth and teaching them about the importance of philanthropy and charitable giving, as well as civic awareness. Today, YAC serves as a platform for burgeoning youth leaders to assess and address the needs of their peers through various outreach initiatives.
YAC members believe that the results from their survey will serve to illuminate the needs, aspirations, and challenges of young people in the community. The results will also help the Council and the Foundation direct their future efforts toward more relevant supports for young people and for their schools.
While the overall results from the survey were very informative, some responses were particularly revealing. One question asked students whether school was valuable to them. 59% of students in public high school responded that yes, school was valuable to them, compared to 93% of private high school students.
In another question which addressed the issue of school safety, 80% of private high school students said they felt safe compared to 41% of their public school peers. However, when private high school students were asked how they dealt with stress, the responses indicated that 13% drank, 22% smoked, and 21% used drugs, in contrast to public high school students who responded with lower levels of drug, alcohol and tobacco use. Public middle school students also reported in the ‘Answers for Change’ survey that 12% considered dropping out of school.
Overall, the survey revealed that there are some incredible opportunities within our public middle schools to sustain what appears to be higher levels of student engagement while at the same time addressing some potentially serious social trends that may lead students to lose focus and in turn fall out of the system in high school.
YAC members believe that the entire survey should be of interest to parents and educators alike. According to YAC member, Chasen Richards, “In high school, priorities get confused and life starts to happen. In high school, students are also exposed to more- both at school and in the media. Additionally, there is a bigger age range at high school, and kids are exploring things and rebelling if they can. They also don’t have the same support or the focus anymore.”
After reviewing the questions about support, YAC member Kemit Sweeney said, “Students lack a connection between their daily lives and the theoretical knowledge from school. When they don’t find it, they drop off the radar.” YAC members believe that their survey has given youth on St. Croix a voice and through collaborative efforts from community stakeholders, targeted steps can be taken to prevent youth from dropping off the radar and out of the system.
Over the past three years, the Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council has been very busy. In addition to the survey, they have awarded grants to various youth-based community projects and earlier this year, they hosted a highly successful Youth Forum, entitled “Turning Problems into Possibilities.”
Moving forward, YAC members will be using the data collected from their survey to develop a Youth Network, which will entail a resource clearinghouse for youth providing career development, as well as mentoring and social supports. They have already begun to reach out to other youth groups in the Territory inviting them to join forces to prove that youth have the ability to mobilize for positive causes to make a positive difference in their community. YAC members wish to extend their heart-felt thanks to the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority for their assistance in tallying the surveys. The Council is also grateful to Mr. Boatang of The University of the Virgin Islands Extension Services for allowing them to meet regularly in their building. Additional thanks go out to Mr. Gary Molloy and Ms. Janine Schuster of the Virgin Islands Department of Education for providing the Department’s support for the survey. The Youth Advisory Council also expresses their thanks to the St. Croix Foundation Matt Miller Fund and the Miller family for their ongoing support and guidance.
Last but certainly not least, YAC extends a sincere thank you to all of the students who participated in the survey from the following schools: St. Croix Educational Complex, St. Croix Central High School, John H. Woodson Junior High School, Elena L. Christian Junior High School, St. Mary’s Catholic School, Free Will Baptist School, Arthur Richards Elementary School, Country Day School, and Good Hope School. Student responses are greatly appreciated and will remain as a guiding factor in the projects that YAC undertakes this year.
Survey results can be found on the St. Croix Foundation’s website at www.stxfoundation.org. And, for more information about the Council email YAC at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the St. Croix Foundation at 340-773-9898.