Youth task force focuses on school attendance

Friday, March 25, 2016

Nevada Daily Mail

Since its inception in 2007, the Vernon County Youth Task Force has sought ways to empower youth and raise awareness on issues critical to the well-being of young people in this area.

At their monthly meeting Wednesday, the VCYTF heard the latest plans by the Youth Enrichment Services committee at Nevada High School and focused on the latest project to encourage school attendance.

Last year, Jodie McNeely of Nevada R-5 schools provided an explanation of an effort called Minutes Matter. As psychologist and VCYTF chair, Trisha Bridgewater explained, "This is taking things a step deeper than simply saying 'graduation matters.' This is encouraging parents to set a positive pattern of getting their children to school."

Kora Anderson, Health Services Coordinator for Nevada R-5 schools shared on paper the power-point presentation describing the importance of and the factors that promote school attendance. Said Anderson, "Either we need some students to record a sound track for the presentation or better yet, turn this into a video presentation."

Anderson spoke of the need to distribute this information widely but in a brief format. The group settled on a bookmark. With the assistance of Jennifer Gundy, Executive Director of On My Own, the two led the group in listing the most important factors and stating them briefly.

Said Gundy, "A student chronically absent in any year between grades 8-12 is 7.4 times more likely to drop out of school."

Asked to define "chronic attendance," Anderson said, "That's missing two or more days a month. That may not seem like much but it leads to falling behind, poor grades, dropping out and a lot harder life."

The group decided to include on their bookmark this equation: Attendance + School = Success!

The group hopes to print and widely distribute the bookmarks before the end of the school year. VCYTF hopes to get even more information that promotes attendance into the hands of parents in August, at the start of the school year.

Tom Geeding of Nevada R-5 Schools reviewed the plans and activities of the YES committee. "Nevada's prom will be April 16 and so YES has designated the week before as "Safe and Sober Week" with daily activities at the high school."

Geeding spoke of an April 13 youth conference in Jefferson City titled, Speak Hard. "This will be the seventh year we've attended and we hope to take four adults, 20 students from the high school and 3 from the middle school. All who attend learn a lot and come back fired up to help others."

Trisha Bridgewater, called on two youth to talk about a possible project. Senior, Emily Dunlap, and junior, Hannah Bond, spoke about a series of powder-puff football games.

"Said Dunlap, "This year, instead of one game, we want three. The juniors would play the seniors while the freshman would play sophomores. Then the winners from those first two games would play for the championship."

Bond added, "For all three games we hope to have male cheerleaders."

The meeting opened with a presentation on cooperation made by Nevada Police Chief Graham Burnley.

"It's important that police, sheriff's department and state patrol all cooperate but the places with the best law enforcement have the cooperation of the public they serve. Community policing is not just a buzz word, I think it's the only way for us in law enforcement to do our job," Burnley said.

Burnley went on to explain that concept. "The bedrock of such policing is law enforcement listening to the needs of the people and the citizens supporting law enforcement. And I call that, cooperation."

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