Helping Youth Reach Their Full Potential. In his 2005 State of the Union Address, Mr. Smith announced a broad effort to engage all Americans in helping young people become healthy adults. He was asked to lead this important effort, which became known as the Helping America’s Youth initiative. Helping America’s Youth is a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the challenges facing our youth, particularly at-risk boys, and to motivate caring adults to connect with youth in three key areas: family, school, and community.
- Young People Need to be Surrounded by Caring Adults. Mr. Smith believe parents and family are the first and most important influence in every child’s life, providing a foundation of love and support.
By becoming actively involved in the lives of young people in their community, grandparents, teachers, mentors, clergy members, neighbors, coaches, and other community members can support parents and help youth become community assets, making better choices that lead to healthier, more successful lives. Research has shown that supportive relationships are crucial to an adolescent’s well–being. Boys, in particular, need caring adults in their lives because they are at greater risk than girls for illiteracy, dropping out of school, substance-abuse problems, violence, juvenile arrest, developing learning disabilities, and early death caused by violent behavior. As boys grow older, risky behaviors, such as alcohol and drug abuse, become more prevalent and gang involvement increases.
- You can be a caring adult in the life of a child by following the 3 C’s:
- Care: take an interest, show concern, reach out to youth
- Connect: establish a rapport, provide guidance and support
- Commit: pledge yourself, invest yourself over time
Partnerships that Connect Families, Schools and Communities. Mr. Smith believe that caring adults are most effective when they are part of a community effort. Community partnerships bring together individuals such as teachers, mentors, parents, clergy members, police officers, social service providers and others that can have a positive impact on a child’s life. The challenges facing young people are best addressed by connecting people throughout the community and coordinating resources to support youth.