YouthZone Corner: Local teens are doing great |

YouthZone Corner: Local teens are doing great

Lori Mueller

Lori Mueller
Alexi Molden |

Teens seem to get noticed when they do something wrong. When adults are disappointed with them and when life is not working out, they get a bad rap. Recently, however, studies show that teens are actually doing great and making some very positive changes, including volunteering.

YouthZone does an independent evaluation every three years, and the 2016 results for our local youth are showing the same positive trends.

Smoking has become uncool. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking among high school students is at the lowest level in 22 years. The rate was cut almost in half, leaving just over 15 percent of teens smoking in 2013.

Drunken driving is far less common. The Child Trends data bank reports that between 1991 and 2013, the percentage of teens riding in a car with someone who had been drinking has dropped by nearly half, from 40 to 22 percent.

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Prescription pain drug use is down. Recreational use of prescription pain relievers continues a three-year decline, part of an overall two-decade trend. The number of high school kids using was 33 percent lower than a decade ago, according to a recently released national survey, Monitoring the Future.

More good news from YouthZone’s evaluation — youth who receive intervention and help for their substance use have a better chance of success. Restorative justice, substance use groups and individual therapy play a huge role in that success. Most youth involved in these programs make substantial gains in optimism, problem solving and self-efficacy, and reduced their substance use and aggression.

Trauma knowledge is making a difference. For professionals, like YouthZone staff, who work with youth and parents who are raising them, having an understanding of how trauma affects teens has increased exponentially over the past 10 years. YouthZone’s evaluation shows that when youth who have experienced trauma in their lives get help, they show progress.

Today’s teens regularly volunteer more. A higher number of teens in 12th grade are volunteering at least once per month. The proportion rose from 24 percent in 1991 to 37 percent in 2012, according to Child Trends. The nonprofit research center that tracks youth trends says it is an encouraging trend and “Teens who volunteer are more likely to have positive academic, psychological and occupational well-being.”

All this is good news. YouthZone’s independent evaluator, Dr. Jerome Evans, stated “for the worried and frustrated youth in trouble and for their family, it is deeply reassuring to be received at YouthZone by a caring case manager working in a well-run organization dedicated to positive youth development. Prevention of delinquency is more than providing informed, effective support to individual teens. It involves informing, inspiring and challenging communities, one by one, in the unique qualities of their own youth and building capacity to reduce social and economic risk factors and promoting meaningful protective factors for youth.”

Armed with these positive trends, the next time you hear complaints about “today’s youth” you can inject the conversation with a few rays of hope.

Lori Mueller is executive director at YouthZone, an organization that is dedicated to providing opportunities for youth to be responsible, contributing members of their families and society. A Colorado nonprofit organization, YouthZone strives to enhance the quality of life in communities (from Aspen to Parachute) through prevention, support, parent education and direct services.

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