Tricounty News

EV-W School and Youth Frontiers take on bullying

National character education leader, Youth Frontiers, to partner with Eden Valley Watkins Secondary School to take on bullying and disrespect

Bullying remains key damaging issue in school communities

To help build a more respectful school culture, Youth Frontiers, the leading character education organization in the Upper Midwest, will partner with Eden Valley-Watkins Secondary in Eden Valley, Friday, Jan. 3, to host a comprehensive Respect Retreat for the grades 9 and 10 classes to help reduce bullying. Through initiatives that focus on the importance of being respected and valued, Youth Frontiers delivers programs that build positive school communities and strengthen student character in schools across the country.

For more than 25 years, Youth Frontiers’ successful and highly regarded retreats teach students how to incorporate the values of kindness, courage, respect and integrity into their personal and school lives. The Twin Cities-based organization aims to strengthen core values, confront negative behaviors and enable students to recognize the consequences of their actions. Last school year, the nationally renowned nonprofit held more than 700 retreats for more than 110,000 students and educators. Since its inception in 1987, Youth Frontiers has reached more than 1.3 million students.

Youth Frontiers staff clearly understand the challenges students face every day in their often times complicated lives. They also know that at the root of one’s character lies values.

“We teach values unapologetically,” says Youth Frontiers founder and CEO Joe Cavanaugh,
who General Colin Powell has described as “a leader in our nation’s effort to rescue America’s young people.”

Youth Frontiers offers high-impact retreats for schools, using interactive games, music, small discussion groups and gripping stories to break down walls between young people, helping them to see each other differently. Throughout the retreat day, students begin to exhibit traits of true character – mending relationships, stating acts of courage and respecting themselves and others. Comprehensive follow-up materials also provide a way for educators and students to extend the impact of the retreat.

“Our mission is to change the way students treat each other in every hallway, lunch line and classroom of every school in America,” says Cavanaugh. “We are not succeeding as a society if our children receive an ‘A’ in Math… and an ‘F’ in life.”

Educators agree. “It is an experience as a teacher that I always look forward to because by the end of day I know we have a better school,” said educator John Mitsch of St. Anthony Middle School in
St. Anthony, Minn.

Bullying remains prevalent challenge

Bullying remains a key issue and can have serious negative consequences for students not just while they’re in school, but also throughout their lives. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, almost 30 percent of youth (more than 5.7 million) in the United States are estimated to be involved in bullying – as either a bully or as a target of bullying.

The issue of bullying is complicated by the lack of intervention from adults and peers. As Youth Frontiers strives to create a healthier school climate in which students can thrive academically, socially and emotionally, the organization engages the 80 percent of students who aren’t bullied or bully themselves – known as “bystanders” – to no longer stand by and watch others being bullied. In a study with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, a month after a Youth Frontiers retreat, more than eight of 10 students strongly or somewhat agree that other students are more likely to help someone who is being picked on.

“For more than two decades, I’ve been listening to kids talk about physically threatening and emotionally scarring experiences at the hands of bullies,” says
Cavanaugh. “At the same time, I have witnessed how strongly our youth respond to positive messages. I know from Youth Frontiers’ own quantitative assessments that positive messages create a catalyst for change in our schools. We must continue to work together to implement an important dialogue, bring preventative measures and place issues of bullying and character education at the top of our priority list.”

Youth Frontiers has three grade-specific tiers, each offering targeted themes. In fourth and fifth grade, kids learn about the importance of kindness at a young age. Hearing how their own actions can make a difference, they become empowered to end bullying in their school. In middle school, youth learn how to overcome their own fears so that they can find the moral courage to stand up for someone else who is being picked on. In high school, Youth Frontiers teaches self-respect and the importance of respecting others. The students take ownership for creating a safe and respectful school culture.

Founded in 1987 and based in the Twin Cities, Youth Frontiers, Inc. (www.youthfrontiers.org) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to building the character of young people. In addition, YF provides online resources for parents to help foster their children’s positive peer interactions. Youth Frontiers is funded through a partnership between schools and private foundations, corporations and individuals.