While driving through Main Street in Bristol you may have seen handmade paper jerseys in the windows of businesses, names of players are painted across the backs, and positive messages written below the names encouraging players to do their best at the upcoming championship. One team, at one high school, can promote so much positivity. While it took the entire team to get to the championship, each individual player, family member, friend, coach, teacher, and business owner likely had something to do with getting that team to that championship. At United Way of Addison County we believe that what YOU do matters. If you are a youth, parent, teacher, coach, business owner, student, dog lover, cat lover, donor, volunteer, advocate; the choices YOU make, the things YOU do matter.
In 2017 38% of (high school) students in Addison County reported that they spent zero hours in extracurricular activities in a typical week. This is concerning when we consider that the things youth do directly impact their likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors (including substance use). Also alarming is that 37% of students in Addison County reported that they were “unsure”, or “disagree”, or “strongly disagree” that they matter to people in their community (according to the 2017 YRBS). It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the two stats are related; the fewer activities youth are involved in, the more likely they are to feel depressed, anxious, isolated, not valued, which increases their likelihood to engage in risky behavior.
To the contrary, this doesn’t mean that youth who are involved in extracurricular activities are invincible from unhealthy risk taking or negative outcomes. What the data tells us, is that students who are involved in extracurricular activities are less likely to engage in more risky behaviors.
In the beginning of September, the Prevention Team at UWAC launched a campaign that we are calling ‘Promoting Positivity: What YOU do matters!’ Our campaign focuses on the positive things that youth in Addison County are doing and encouraging them to keep up the great work. If youth aren’t as involved as they’d like to be, our campaign includes information about the different activities that we spotlight each week including information about why this activity is fun, healthy, and safe, as well as testimonials from their peers, and names of coaches or community contacts who lead the activities. The WYDM campaign is relevant to youth substance prevention when we consider how to enhance and increase protective factors. Protective factors are characteristics associated with a lower likelihood of negative outcomes, such as strong family bonds, positive self image, safe community, and peers who are actively involved in healthy activities. Whether YOU play a sport, paint, fish, build, write, sing, dance, skateboard, bake, or farm, your commitment to a healthy lifestyle encourages those around you to do the same. What YOU do matters because the healthy choices you make have positive, lasting impacts on you as an individual, on your peers, on your family, and on your community.
Keep up the great work Addison County, and let us know about all the amazing things that YOU do to promote positivity.