Contributed by Stephanie Allen
Houston, Alaska- The United Way of Mat-Su, Mat-Su Health Foundation, Mat-Su Borough School District, R.O.C.K. Mat-Su, the Alaska Afterschool Network, Onward & Upward, and several other regional partners will launch Youth 360 at Houston Middle School in February 2019. The initiative offers students activities and opportunities to explore, play, learn, and get connected. All registered Houston Middle and High School students are eligible to participate. Youth 360 will offer a youth club, fun and interesting after school activities, family events, summer programs, behavioral health services and transportation.
The goal of Youth 360 is to strengthen youth connections with their peers, parents or caregivers and the community. Research shows that the more connected youth are, the more likely they will become happy, healthy, thriving adults. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, social connection can reduce rates of youth bullying, suicide, and substance misuse and increase rates of overall youth health and well-being. Youth 360 builds connection by providing positive, meaningful activities and opportunities for young people and their families.
Stephanie Allen, Executive Director of United Way of Mat-Su, says, “Youth 360 differs from other youth programs because it is really led by the youth themselves. Students provide input about what activities are provided at the youth club and during out of school time, they select which activities they’d like to participate in, they will lead some of the activities and they will even help decide how the youth club space will look and feel. Another unique part about this initiative is that it will provide transportation assistance. We really want it to be easy for families to participate. We want all youth to know the community cares about you and we are all in for you.”
Opening the youth club and having fun, structured activities at Houston Middle School is the first phase of a three-year implementation plan. Planning is ongoing and will result in opening another after school club in the region by the end of the three-year period. The goal is for Youth 360 to reach all Mat-Su youth by 2023. For more information about the initiative or to learn more about how you or your child may participate, contact Stephanie Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.