In late January and early February, teams from two New Hampshire school communities attended Getting to “Y” training retreats. These groups of youth and adults learned community building, data analysis, and facilitation skills that they will use when they host data analysis retreats in their own communities, helping them make meaning out of their schools’ Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data.
On January 25th, youth in grades 5-9 and adults from area schools in Lebanon – Rivendell Academy, Indian River Middle School, Newport Middle School, and Kearsarge Middle School – gathered for their retreat. These teams were hosted by Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center through their Public Health Network. On February 8th, a group from Portsmouth High School met in the town’s public library. This team is sponsored by the PineTree Institute, a non-profit focused on addressing the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) through trauma responsive approaches. The New Hampshire groups will each host local data analysis retreats and community dialogue events and make action plans to improve youth health and well-being.
During the Portsmouth retreat, the group looked at 2021 data from their school, identifying strengths and concerns, and brainstorming root causes. One data point that the team discussed was the decrease in on-campus risk factors (such as substance use and bullying), which many in the group attributed to the fact that, due to COVID-19, the school was using a hybrid/remote schedule. Another interesting data point was the reporting of increased youth access to alcohol during 2021, and the group speculated that parents and caregivers might have been more permissive about substance use at this time.
The team also took part in an activity where they looked to match percentages with the corresponding risk factors in their community. Through this game, they discovered that many youth and adults perceive that the alcohol and cannabis consumption rate is higher than it actually is. They discussed what such perceptions might mean for themselves and other students, and how they might increase the likelihood of consumption. They also noted that examining such discrepancies in perception versus reality can help build students’ confidence in their individual choices. The seven youth from Portsmouth High School who took part in the retreat are members of the school’s health and wellness club and statistics class (some are in both), and they contributed deep interest and experience to the discussions.
In addition to bringing meaning to data, the Getting to “Y” program supports communities in building their capacity for funding opportunities, as including specific data helps make grant proposals more robust. It also helps build more resilient youth, and provides them the opportunity to develop and hone their leadership skills. After the training, Patrice Baker, the Director of Prevention Programs at the Pinetree Institute remarked, “The GTY Leadership training was inspiring. The idea of “data analysis” sounds somewhat dry and even intimidating, but the process we learned at the training makes it fun, engaging and motivating…because once we have an accurate picture of the strengths and challenges we are facing, we can begin to establish priorities and goals, and move forward with purpose and confidence. I really liked the way the training empowers young people to become leaders, and to use the data to identify the assets as well as the needs.” UP for Learning is excited to be partnering with middle and high schools in New Hampshire, and looks forward to working with more communities across the state!