Posted on December 9, 2016 by Bianca Aguilar
What do you get when you take 13 rural communities, 12 youth-serving organizations, and more than 1 million hours of youth activities? You get more than 8,000 youth who have a safe place to go after school, a trusted adult in their lives, and a space where they can explore, learn, and have fun.
The goal of the IGNITE Initiative at the Paso del Norte Health Foundation is to improve a range of health outcomes by engaging disconnected youth in out of school programs in the Paso del Norte region. The Health Foundation has invested more than 3 million dollars in youth-serving nonprofit organizations to reach and positively engage disconnected youth. Disconnected youth are defined as young people between the ages of 7 – 18 years old who are not involved in out-of-school activities or working.
In the United States, the hours between 3 and 6 p.m., (afterschool) are the peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and sex; in Ciudad Juárez, these critical hours nearly double because their school day is shorter. Evidence indicates that teens who do not participate in afterschool programs are three times more likely to use marijuana or other drugs, and are more likely to drink, smoke, and engage in sexual activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nationally 18% of youth ages 12-17 do not participate in any out of school activity. In the Paso del Norte region, nearly 1 in 4 youth ages 7-18 fall in this category.
The work of reaching disconnected youth has proven to be challenging. In 2013, a regional study indicated that disconnected youth were more likely to have a parent or guardian with a high school degree or less and live in a low-income household. Nationally, disconnected youth were more likely to be female than male. Many IGNITE partners have had to reinvent how they reach youth with these challenges and work to keep them in their programs.
Since 2013, the Health Foundation has collaborated with organizations like Creative Kids, the FEMAP Foundation, and the Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest to work in the rural areas of Ciudad Juárez, southern New Mexico, and west Texas. Their programs provided a variety of opportunities including academic support, art, music and dance classes, workshops, social skills and team building, field trips, and sports, having a significant impact on these young lives. Participation rates have nearly doubled as these programs expand.
The United Way of El Paso County has developed the Borderland Out of School Time Network (BOOST) to better support collaboration and communication among out of school time providers and other youth serving organizations in the region. More than 20 organizations from all parts of the region have participated in quarterly meetings. If you work for youth serving organization and are interested in learning more, please visit: http://www.unitedwayelpaso.org/out-school-time-network.
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