PYD: Positive Youth Development
Positive Youth Development (PYD) is a unique partnership of Westport’s PTA’s, Westport Schools, Department of Human Services and Positive Directions. Its mission is to promote the positive development of children and youth in their families, in their schools, among their peers, and in their communities.
In 1996, the United Way organized and sponsored a town-wide forum on Youth Issues, held at Temple Israel. This Forum posed several questions to the participants, probably numbering around sixty people, who covered a very broad gamut of representation from groups dealing with Westport Youth, as well as youth themselves. The questions were:
What exists in our community which supports youth?
What are the obstacles to positive youth development?
What should we change?
What are the top three things we should do?
A second forum was held later, focusing on what actions had been taken and course corrections.
The timing on these forums coincided with results of the First Selectman’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention (Arcudi Administration), Westport schools’ focus on needs of children, including the social and emotional, and the Westport Youth Commission recommendations. All in all, there was a confluence of varied groups, all focusing on improving the health and safety of our children.
The recommendations which came out of these discussions focused on several needs:
Middle School Programming
Safe Places for Youth to Gather
Youth Leadership Development
A philosophical approach was developed which concentrated on preventing youth problems, rather than correcting them after the fact. Under this philosophical umbrella, the Town (Human Services), Schools, a prevention agency (“Positive Directions”) and Parents (PTA) work together to encourage those programs already in existence which encourage positive youth behavior, as well as developing new ones. Examples of programs already in existence, which support positive youth development, are such things as religious youth groups, sporting activities, etc. New programs created out of these discussions include Toquet Hall, the Community Service Corps, School Psychologist Meetings and Risky Behavior Forums.
A Parent Resource Committee was formed and it is now comprised of two PYD Representatives from each school, the PTA Council Presidents, the PTA Council PYD Representatives, and directors from the Town of Westport Human Services, Positive Directions, the Westport School district, the Coordinator of Psychological Services for the district and the Parent Education Coordinator for the town. This group meets monthly throughout the school year to keep on top of developments in the lives of Westport’s children and to brainstorm possible programming.