Adolescence is a unique time in human development. Young people are transitioning to adulthood, establishing their autonomy and identity, confronting new challenges and trying to understand and interpret the world around them.
October is the month of the young adolescent. This celebration brings together a wide range of organizations to focus on the needs of this important age group. I suggest community members use this month to honor and support these individuals who often go unheard.
Anchorage United for Youth Partners and United Way of Anchorage have just released a study demonstrating that Anchorage high school students are more likely to be successful in school and avoid risky behaviors when they have multiple "protective factors" in their lives.
These protective factors come from parents, the community, extracurricular activities, schools and teachers. This local report reinforces other studies that tell us our young people need to participate in positive activities, feel valued, be engaged and supported by adults and have a community that discourages risky behaviors and encourages meaningful involvement.
Each of us has a role to play in ensuring our youth are supported. Find the study at aydc.org/documents/yrbs2012crosstabanalysisreport.pdf.
There are a number of ways community members can support young Alaskans this month:
Oct. 15-17 brings youth and elders from around the state together for First Alaskans Institute's Elders & Youth Conference. The conference stimulates dialogue between young people and elders and seeks to empower them to create positive change within themselves and within their communities.
On Oct. 18 Youth Vote will hold its forum at West High School. This program is designed to provide a nonpartisan venue for empowering youth to vote and be involved in the democratic process. Many elected officials and candidates for the U.S. House will participate. The forum will be broadcast live on KTUU from noon to 1 p.m.
Alaska Day is also Oct. 18, and the statewide organization Spirit of Youth has an opportunity to celebrate Alaska by celebrating Alaska's youth. This campaign highlights youth ages 12-19 who are making positive choices and giving back to their community. Anyone can nominate a teen for recognition at spiritofyouth.org.
Oct. 23-31 is Alaska Red Ribbon Week promoting the theme, "The best me is drug-free." This week celebrates our youngest citizens by appreciating their strengths and helping them grow up to be healthy productive adults.
Karen Zeman is executive director of Spirit of Youth, a nonprofit dedicated to creating, promoting and recognizing youth involvement in communities across Alaska. Spirit of Youth is an Anchorage United for Youth partner.