Monday, November 4, 2013

Community Asset or Persona non grata?

By Eric Stradford and Stephanie Walker Stradford

In the past, community coalitions have evolved from the loudest or most consistent among the diverse voices. Today, any caring adult or enterprising youth can lead by finding and following the right pathway. The 21st Century affords access to evidence-based and innovative strategies that connect local efforts to national supports.

Attitudes about “persona non grata” can be an early sign that a particular plan of action is not working. Referring to someone as persona non grata is to say that he or she is ostracized or unwelcome. Such a person is, for all intents and purposes, culturally shunned, so as to be figuratively nonexistent.

Practitioners nationwide, particularly those engaged in community asset building, are discovering evidence to support common sense approaches passed down over generations. In theory, the proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” promotes one achievable objective for engaging youth and caring adults in sustainable partnerships.

In reality, the “whole village” has been loosely defined. The village can be enhanced with transitioning veterans, mentally and or emotionally challenged relatives, ex-offenders, and unemployed neighbors who might be considered “persona non grata.” Establishing value in “the least among us” will ultimately impact desired outcomes.

Pathways for Youth is one approach to connect local needs with national assets. The federal plan considers all youth, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable youth, and particularly those who are disconnected from school, work, or family. The consequences are serious for both individuals and society as a whole, as young people who are disconnected cost the nation billions of dollars every year in lost earnings, welfare and medical costs, and unmet personal potential. The draft Pathways for Youth plan is distinct from agency plans. It has a specific focus on federal collaboration related to youth programs.

Youth Achievers USA Institute, a national 501c3 public charity, promotes sustainable partnerships among caring adults. Program officers regularly monitor federal plans aimed at supporting youth. Since 1996, organizers have qualified youth beneficiaries through THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS.

YouthUSA’s circular capacity building program promotes financial literacy and asset building to address historically unmet needs. A free online application offers any American, age 7-24, a chance to become a “community asset” where he or she lives, learns, works or worships. Each successful application establishes personal goals, raises a whole village, and builds a future with Money-n-the-Bank.

At-risk youth are more likely to graduate from high school or receive a Certificate of General Educational Development (GED) if some basic threats are countered with local supports. To acquire an education, they will need transportation to classes. If they are transitioning out of a homeless shelter, juvenile detention or jail, they will need connections to supportive adults and resources to secure a permanent home and employment. To get a job, they will need references; and, to keep a job, they may need to address mental health or substance abuse concerns.

Federal coordination is critical to protecting vulnerable youth. First, government has to work with community for the benefit of young people. Where and how federal investment is made must consider the needs of partnering adults as well as supported youth. And, youth must be engaged in determining how, when and where they will invest in their own future. Money-n-the-Bank is one approach that addresses economic security needs for the “whole village.”

Common Vision For Youth

Goal 1: Collaboration and Coordination - Promote coordinated strategies (youth, community, agencies) to improve youth outcomes.

Goal 2: Evidence-based and Innovative Strategies -
Promote the use of evidence-based and innovative strategies at federal, state, local, and tribal levels.  

Goal 3: Youth Engagement and Partnerships - Promote youth engagement and partnerships to strengthen programs and benefit youth.

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