By DAVID VOEGELE
Executive director, Essex CHIPS
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a community such as Essex could be publicly recognized for its robust support of youth? That opportunity has arrived. The QYD Project is a new credentialing process that measures the achievement of 10 benchmarks by a village/town/city/region in order for it to be certified as a “QYD Community.” Achievement of this credential will demonstrate that a community is actively engaging, and empowering youth. This is an essential component of any effective positive youth development strategy.
QYD is an acronym for “Quality Youth Development,” which is defined as “substantive, measurable, and sustainable community actions that support, engage, inspire, and empower youth.” This new credential was designed to become the quality standard that communities seek to achieve in order to help youth thrive, encourage youth to remain/return to the community after their education is completed, and attract new residents and businesses because of the community’s support of youth. QYD was inspired by, and aligned with, the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets for positive youth development. This is the first credentialing effort in New England that measures and acknowledges a community’s commitment to youth in this manner.
The 10 benchmarks to be achieved by an applicant community in order to attain the QYD Community certification are based upon a community’s commitment to:
- Welcoming, inclusive, and accessible space in the community for all youth (including LBGTQ+ youth, youth of color, disadvantaged youth) to gather safely when out of school.
- Local funding in support of community-based youth programs.
- A professional youth-mentoring program serving the community.
- An elected community youth council, consisting of high school students that will advise the community on issues directly and indirectly related to youth.
- Posters displayed by downtown businesses that communicate to youth “you are welcome here.”
- The engagement of youth as members of the Board of Directors of local non-profits providing services to youth.
- Youth access to social services and resources outside of a school setting.
- An annual youth conference or legislative forum for middle and high school students.
- Effective recruitment of young people for local community-wide committees.
- Creation of internship/employment opportunities for youth in local government and businesses.
The QYD Project quantifies each of these benchmarks in detail in its application materials. From my perspective, the QYD Community certification can be achieved by Essex (or the broader Essex-Westford School District community) before the beginning of the next school year. I strongly believe this because Essex is one of the communities that inspired the creation of this credential by Essex CHIPS over the past year. We are convinced that other towns will also seek the public recognition and benefits of becoming QYD Communities in the years ahead. Will Essex (or EWSD), become the first QYD Community, to be celebrated for its demonstrated commitment to Quality Youth Development? We shall see!