City of Alexandria, VA
Residents Help Build a Youth Master Plan
More than 300 residents recently participated in three public forums to help create Alexandria’s first Child and Youth Master Plan, which will serve as a blueprint for developing and improving services and supports for the City’s young people, from cradle to career.
“We're really excited about this process and what we're hoping to get out of this is a roadmap that we can use to affect the lives of youth in our city to make them better prepared for life,” said David Miller, Alexandria Recreation Services Division Chief, at the last forum, held February 23 at William Ramsay Elementary School.
The City’s Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission is leading the creation of the master plan in partnership with the Forum for Youth Investment, a nonprofit based in Washington. “The commission is working with citizens and community leaders to determine the goals that will help all its young people achieve, and provide strategies to meet those goals,” said Jacqueline Coachman, Youth Services Program Specialist with the City’s Department of Community and Human Services.
Public input is critical. To get that input, the newly formed commission held three public meetings in February: Saturday morning sessions at T.C. Williams High School and at Ramsay Elementary, and a weeknight session at the Charles Houston Recreation Center.
At each forum, adults and youth broke into workgroups to examine data about the City’s youth, identify priority issues, discuss the factors behind those issues and suggest solutions. The discussion focused on five broad outcome areas. That youth are: academically and vocationally successful; physically safe and healthy; emotionally secure, hopeful and resilient; socially and civically engaged and empowered; and culturally competent and connected.
The participants voted for indicators that were most important to them, and then separated into workgroups were they could discuss specific issues such as truancy, substance abuse and participation in community activities.
The work groups then explored solutions, including life skills and leadership training for young people; school orientation sessions with parents to explain what is expected of them to help their children succeed; greater collaboration among agencies and organizations to share resources and skills; and peer-to-peer mentoring.
The work groups shared their discussions with reports to the full group. At the Feb. 23 meeting, those ideas included: a central bi-lingual Alexandria hotline that parents can call to get information about programs and services for youth; mentorship and resiliency training in schools; ensuring that City leaders and policymakers spend a couple of days in the schools, riding the school buses and understanding what is going on in schools and different areas of the City; creating policies and programs that promote cultural and neighborhood integration; and creating a peer-parent program to get engaged parents to mentor other parents and teach better parenting skills.
One participant explained that he hopes the master plan “will allow us to prioritize and effectively use our resources to create the best process for children in the City of Alexandria.”
The next step in the master plan process is the hosting of forums for youth at T.C. Williams High School, Hammond Middle School and George Washington Middle School. Input from the youth forums as well as those held in February will be used to determine the strategies that will be the foundation of the youth master plan.
Find out more about the master plan process at http://alexandriava.gov/CYFCC. To receive the most current information on Youth Master Plan development, subscribe to the City’s eNews alerts for Youth Master Plan at alexandriava.gov/enews.