3_photo1The third Bainbridge Island Healthy Youth Summit was held on Saturday, March 15th, 2014 at Bainbridge High School Commons. This was the third of three community Summits focusing on “what really matters” in our community’s efforts to nurture thriving and resilient youth.  This culminating meeting was specifically focused on identifying and committing to individual and collective action.

“The first Healthy Youth Summit was focused on sharing information.  This was an opportunity for 171 parents and youth to review current data about the well-being of our teenagers and interpret that data,” said Marina Cofer-Wildsmith, Executive Director of Bainbridge Youth Services. “We wanted the community to be aware of the current behaviors and sentiments of our youth and begin to identify ways that we, as a community, need to shift our own thinking and our own behaviors.”  Surveys and focus groups of Bainbridge Island teens report high levels of stress and pressure to succeed, and many youth report a community culture that values what they achieve more than who they are as an individual.

Based on the presentation by keynote speaker, Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD (speaker, writer and researcher on positive youth development), several questions were raised: How can we support kids developing their own internal compass, the internal qualities and strengths that help guide and support them from within? How can we learn from our youth what works best for them? How do we create the caring relationships and experiences that support positive youth development?

“Once we had the questions our community wanted to address, our next discussion was focused on moving the conversation from sharing and reviewing data to envisioning a desired future for our community. If it takes a village to raise a child, what does the village need to look like?” asked Cezanne Allen, Board Chair for Raising Resilience. “Over 170 participants at Summit #2 identified themes important for our community to focus on to move our community from good to great in supporting healthy youth development.

Over one hundred dedicated participants that included youth, parents, our Mayor, School District Superintendent and numerous other leaders in our community came together to identify what individual and collective actions can help start a movement, building a culture that celebrates who kids are and not just what they do.

Clay Roberts, an international speaker and school consultant kicked off the morning by reminding us of ways each of us can make a difference in the lives of youth. In his presentation, “Take a Moment, Make a Difference” he asked each participant to reflect on their own childhood experience of an adult making a difference to them and together participants learned that relationships where youth feel seen and valued can change kid’s lives. Each participant made a commitment to one small action they will take to develop a deeper relationship with kids they know.

Co-facilitators, Doug Nathan and recent BHS graduate Carolyn Milander created an open format for community members to share their ideas for action and allow like-minded others to join them.  Eighteen groups emerged from the summit with ideas ranging from mentorship and mindfulness programs to a community table with shared meals and conversation.

“The energy generated in the room was exhilarating.  People were really enjoying getting youth feedback, creating connections between group members, and forging the next steps that will make Bainbridge an even better community to raise kids.” said Bainbridge Healthy Youth Summit Co-Chair Marina Cofer-Wildsmith.  Cezanne Allen, Summit Co-Chair chimed in “ Of all the work that came out of the Summits, I am most proud of the aspirational values our community articulated:”

  • We believe kids thrive in school and life when valued for who they are, not just for what they achieve.  Their well-being depends on the development of caring relationships that nurture mind, body and spirit.
  • We believe children and teens are valued assets of our island, capable of significant contributions to our community.  We aim for our young people to feel known and respected.
  • We believe that happiness (a life of meaning and purpose) is the key to success; success is not the key to happiness.
  • We believe in helping youth discover, explore and develop their unique passions and interests and connect to their own aspirations for improving the world.
  • We believe it takes a community working together to allow all children to reach their full potential.
  • We believe in education that combines high academic standards with real world learning, meaningful service and creative self-expression.
  • We believe in fostering the inner resources and abilities youth need to lead productive and flourishing lives in the 21st century.

The following year was kicked off with another successful Summit #4!