Research has shown young people need certain qualities, relationships and skills to grow up and be successful. These can include, but are not limited to self-esteem, responsibility, good interpersonal skills, hobbies, positive adult role models and feeling valued by the community. The more of these positive qualities young people have, the less likely they are to participate in risky behaviors such drug and alcohol use or violence.
Middle school is often a time of transition, and can be a difficult period for youth where they begin to navigate the world on their own, and are looking for more responsibility and independence, but do not yet have the cognitive ability to be successful in making choices on their own. This is also the time when we see youth start to experiment with risky behaviors such as using drugs and alcohol. By building up these positive qualities or protective factors, during middle school age, we can help youth make healthy choices.
This is why it is critically important to support young people and show them they belong during this critical stage of development. Typically, there is programming for younger children run by school or after school programs, and at the high school level there are many sports and clubs to get involved with, but many times middle school youth are overlooked at a time when they need support the most.
When asked what middle school youth do with their time, many responded they hang around town at a pizza place or Dunkin Donuts. They are typically unsupervised and in large groups. This can be disruptive to businesses and other patrons and not constructive for young people.
Having a place that is dedicated to middle school youth, that is staffed with capable caring adults, who can provide a developmentally appropriate balance of structure and autonomy in a safe an inclusive environment is critical. The opportunity to explore new hobbies, make new friends, and feel like they have a say, and some control over their lives is crucial for young people at this age. This in turn helps the community by limiting large groups of youth in public spaces, and also helps to create successful citizens of the community of Georgetown who have the knowledge, skills and support they need to give back and be successful, impactful members of the community. The Georgetown Community Rec Center would give young people this opportunity.
Furthermore, the development of a healthy community relies on all members of the community feeling that they have a voice and that they matter to the functioning of the larger group. When the town invests time and money into projects it shows those populations that they are cared for. While the school provides excellent education opportunities for our young people, youth need more than a good education to thrive. It is the moral responsibility of all community members to care for and foster the healthy development of our young people.