Essex welcome sign

A welcome sign at the Essex border identifies the town as a Quality Youth Development Community.

Essex is one of the first towns in the state to achieve a new community-wide credential designed by youth organizations and inspired by the positive work and research of a group out of Minnesota.

The town joined Middlebury as being the first to garner Quality Youth Development (QYD) Community certifications as announced recently by Essex CHIPS.

“I am so thrilled that Essex is now recognized as a certified Quality Youth Development Community,” said Dominique Sweat, the 19-year-old chair of the Essex QYD Steering Committee. “I will be turning 20 this month, and I am so grateful that my more-youthful years were spent here in Essex. This is where I feel valued, and the Essex community empowered me as a youth. Essex truly is a QYD Community.”

Youths and adults from Essex CHIPS and the Essex Healthy Youth Coalition collaborated to create the certification process as a means to recognize communities for their support and empowerment of youths and to encourage further investments which help them to thrive.

An independent governing body for the certification process, the QYD Credential Committee, was responsible for approving the pair of towns based on their necessary achievements. The committee is comprised of non-profit and educational professionals and youths from several states including Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon, and New York.

“We applaud the success of the Middlebury and Essex communities in pioneering this new community certification process,” said Barbara Abraham, chair of the QYD Credential Committee. “Although QYD is a new approach, it is inspired by the solid youth development principles identified decades ago by the Search Institute. We believe it holds great promise as a strategy to promote both youth and community development.”

Minneapolis-based Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets -- a positive youth development approach that is embraced by youth-serving organizations across the country -- was used to design the QYD certification process. The unique QYD strategy is to encourage a whole community to participate in the achievement of at least seven of 10 benchmarks in order to qualify for certification.

The credential has been funded in the state primarily by the Vermont Department of Health. The eventual goal is to replicate the “Vermont model” of youth and community throughout New England and the rest of the nation.

Further information about the QYD Project, and how additional communities may apply for QYD Community certification, is available at, and by emailing

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