Students serious about risks survey

BRISTOL A group of students from Mount Abraham Union High School recently spent a day pouring over the results of their school's Youth Risk Behavior Survey ("YRBS") to identify the areas of strength and concern that seemed most notable to them as students. The project began with an invitation from Helen Beattie at the Vermont Department of Education. The Department of Education offered training and a small stipend to 5 Vermont schools interested in exploring the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from a student perspective, and to involve community in moving forward with action steps based on priority issues the students identified. The YRBS is taken by most Vermont students in grades 8-12 every other year. The project looks at injuries, violence and safety, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, sexual behavior, body weight and nutrition, physical activity and assets. The survey provides insight into what students are doing, but not why or what to do to promote increased health. By allowing an opportunity for students to analyze the data and spend time discussing their ideas about how to make effective change, the community has the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation which includes both young people and adults, and is driven by the concerns identified by the students themselves. A core leadership team of students decided to take on this project in late September. High school students MacKenzie LeBeau, Avanleigh Cota-Weaver, Aliza Kamman, Katelynn Sawyer, and Garan Wilson met weekly with the school's Student Assistance Professional to plan, organize and ultimately run a day-long student retreat. On Nov. 4, the leadership group was joined by a group of students from grades 9-12 and together they spent the day at Rockydale Pizza looking at all of the data from the past two YRBS surveys and prioritized the strengths they saw in the data, as well as the areas which concerned them the most. Although they were joined by teacher Barb Cochran, Strategic Prevention Grant Coordinator Ena Backus, and SAP Sharon Koller, the students took on full leadership and direction of the retreat. After identifying the top themes, the group discussed possible reasons for the strengths and concerns they identified, and began to develop some potential action steps to increase the health of young people in their school and community. The students shared their findings at a Community Dialogue Night Dec. 4 at the Mount Abraham Union High School library.

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