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New Cheshire group to focus on youth behavior

New Cheshire group to focus on youth behavior

CHESHIRE — Following the second round of a youth survey that gathered information about risky behaviors, town leaders plan to form a coalition that will help local students.

Michelle Piccerillo, youth and social services director, said the group will help combat substance abuse and other problems, as well as “make sure that every kid in this community feels valued and that there are adults who care about them.”

The survey results were compiled this year and followed an identical 2015 survey. It asked middle and high school students about depression, suicidal thoughts, sexual activity and drug use as well as family and community support.

The second round showed improvements in some areas, such as more youth saying they valued diversity, but also a jump in risky behaviors when youth move from tenth to eleventh grade.

Piccerillo said she’s still studying the data before drawing conclusions and creating action recommendations. She gave a preliminary presentation to the Board of Education on Wednesday.

Kathryn Hallen, school board chairwoman, said the survey and Piccerillo’s efforts could also help the school system determine where children needed the most help.

“To me, it seems like we’re all working toward the same goal — to equip our kids to be emotionally intelligent and self confident, to give them the skills to move forward in a way that’s healthy,” Hallen said. “It’s all one effort.”

Southington’s Town Wide Effort to Promote Success, which implements a model focused on community and
family support, was partially funded with a federal drug-free communities grant. Piccerillo will apply for the same grant, which provides $125,000 in funding for five years.

“That coalition is going to work to set priorities and to really build the programs,” she said. It will include education officials, town organization leaders, residents and business owners.

While schools play a role in the effort, Piccerillo said the entire community can contribute to building support systems for children.

Hallen appreciated that Piccerillo highlighted the role that town residents can play.

“It has to be a community effort,” she said.

Many of the survey results were encouraging to Piccerillo.

“Our kids feel that they’re surrounded by people, peers, that have a positive impact on them,” she said.
Twitter: @JBuchananRJ