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Challenges kids face are great, but so too is commitment to overcome them

By Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer

So many children face so many obstacles to growing up into confident, independent adults — maturing into women and men who demonstrate compassion to their neighbors, are capable of contributing to their communities, and find themselves engaged in a fulfilling vocation.

Indiana Youth Institute’s recent Kids Count Conference in Indianapolis, which brought together more than 1,000 professionals from across the state involved in various aspects of youth development, underscored the perils young people face every day.

It also was a welcome reminder there are many, many Hoosiers striving to make children’s lives brighter. Every day.

Make no mistake, the task is daunting. Problems such as drugs, poverty, and unhealthy behaviors remain perniciously embedded in our culture, but they bear newer, greater dangers for young people. Drugs, for example, are refined and made more addictive. Advances in imaging techniques allow us to take a picture of a young person’s brain and see how living in a high-stress, unstable environment inhibits its growth. Even as fewer Hoosier students are smoking cigarettes now, many more of them have turned to vaping.

This generation of young people is growing up in a world unknown to their parents and grandparents. Technology — notably in the form of phones and tablets — is being used as a pacifier. You’ve no doubt seen it: A parent hands a “screen” to a fussy toddler to quiet him. There’s no ill intent behind the decision, just a desire to comfort the child. But when that screen flicks on, part of the child’s brain flicks off. The device encourages the child to become disengaged and disassociated from the human interactions occurring around him, and it’s happening during the period of his life that’s most critical to his brain’s development.

Social media, which has brought people together across cultures and continents, can cause young people to feel alienated and isolated when it’s bent into a tool for bullying. Teachers and school counselors now find themselves helping students navigate the choppy waters of friendships made more fraught by Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and the like because the students lack relationship skills forged by face-to-face interactions with others.

The Kids Count Conference provides a forum for Indiana Youth Institute to preview its upcoming Kids Count Data Book that tracks the well-being of Hoosier youths in four areas: family and community, health, economic, and education. The upcoming 2019 Data Book contains a mixed bag of results, just as it has in previous years. Across all four areas, Indiana ranks 28th among states. Most concerning, the state ranks 48th for child maltreatment; 43rd in the number of youths in juvenile detention, and 43rd in infant mortality. Indiana, however, fares well in other benchmark categories, including fourth-grade reading proficiency (seventh among states), high housing burdens (10th), and high school graduation (13th).

Dr. Christopher Emdin, professor, author, and creator of the #HipHopEd social media movement, speaks at Indiana Youth Institute’s 2018 Kids Count Conference.

With all the challenges facing young people, it would be easy to throw our collective hands in the air because the work to overcome them is just too hard. And yet, as much as the Kids Count Conference is an acknowledgement of the issues that affect the healthy development of children, it is a celebration and affirmation of the many, many schools and organizations that engage, educate, and prepare our young people for the future.

It is that hoped-for future that drives those in youth development and compels them to do more. Chester E. Dekko, who created the Dekko Foundation in 1981, believed when young people have access to an education that helps them grow in skills, knowledge, and character, it prepares them to lead a life of independence and self-sufficiency. That’s why he gave the foundation its mission of fostering economic freedom through education. The principles underlying his mission have stood the test of time and are as applicable in 2018 as they were when he was growing up in Minnesota during the Great Depression.

The foundation, however, cannot do it alone. It is only through the work of partners that the mission of economic freedom through education can be realized. They are the ones working with young people. Every day. They are the ones doing the difficult and often unheralded job of building skills, knowledge, and character. Every day.

Yes, our young people will continue to face significant obstacles as they make the long journey to adulthood. But we should be encouraged there are so many caring adults and organizations throughout Indiana who understand those challenges, are passionate and committed, and stand ready to serve them.

Every day.

(Note: If you would like to read the 2019 Indiana Kids Count Data Book Snapshot, you can download it here.)

How do we look?

By Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer

Since you’re here, you may have had this thought: The website looks different.

Well, you’re right. We’ve updated to a responsive site so it performs better on computers, tablets and phones, and we’ve made some small tweaks that hopefully make the site more visually appealing and easier to navigate.

The former site wasn’t old, per se, but it was created at a time when more people were using desktops and laptops to hop around the Internet. These days, most people are apt to look us up on their phone’s browser instead of sitting down at their desk.

You’ll see that our homepage has changed to emphasize our mission of economic freedom. Since 1981, that has been the reason behind everything we do for young people from birth to age 18. But what is economic freedom? What does that mean to us? The new homepage betters tells that story.

Yet for all the changes, the website has stayed largely the same — and that’s important, because for our grantseekers and grant recipients, our website is where they go to complete their applications and reporting requirements. That’s why the “Apply Now!” and “My Account” buttons continue to be featured prominently at the top of the homepage.

In addition, information about our beliefs, our grantmaking and our proactive initiatives remains unchanged. Those pages are an important resource for visitors to the site who want to learn more about us and our mission, our grantmaking criteria and process, our proactive work, our board and staff, and our founder, Mr. Chester E. Dekko.

I hope you like the updated look. Please feel free to look around, kick the tires (so to speak), and let me know your thoughts and suggestions for making our website even better. You can email me at brochford@dekkofoundation.org or call me at 260-347-1278, ext. 115.

We really like how you think!

 

 

Mr. Dekko left us with two major things.

  • A savings account or endowment that has grown to about $228 million.
  • The mission to foster economic freedom through education.

When we’re at work we talk about economic freedom all the time.  We define it as: “The ultimate liberty to make choices about one’s own life.”  We started wondering if any of you ever think about economic freedom.  Last week we asked our Facebook fans to tell us their definition.  They were pretty impressive–we thought we’d share are few of them here.

My definition of Economic Freedom:

Natalie Reick Axel:  To live a comfortable, independent life with the ability to prepare for the future.

Timothy Bruce:  The freedom to prosper within a country without intervention from a government or economic authority.  individuals are free to secure and protect ones’ own human resources, labor and private property.

Shannon Lowenberg Harper:  Economic freedom is the ability to continually increase the quality of life for yourself, your family and your community by striving to be the best you can be.  To make a difference and serve in any and all ways you can.

Doris Winkler Hobbs:  Economic freedom allows one to be ‘all that he or she can be.’  One can set goals, and have the freedom of striving to attain those goals.  One may choose their occupation or profession to earn they money, then are able to choose to spend that money on material goods or investments…all without the intervention of the government.

Doug Jones:  Having just enough.

Sara McAlexander:  “It is the ability to volunteer and help different people, churches, business and civic organizations, not only in our communities but the state and our country.  Not to have to worry about how your ends are gonna meet so that you can volunteer.

Julie Neas:  The freedom to make an impact on your community.  being able to not only take care of yourself but help others as well.

Renea Salyer:  Economic freedom is peace of mind and the ability to reach your dreams without limitations.

We’re always interested in your take on our mission–so let us know if you have economic freedom thoughts!  dekko@dekkofoundation.org

Walk that talk!!!

It’s easy to suggest that your spouse should exercise and cut out soda.  It’s another thing entirely when you have to lace up your sneakers and avoid the sweet brown fizzy stuff yourself.

It’s called walking the talk.  It’s hard!

At the Dekko Foundation we ask our grantseekers to take a step back from their work and deeply consider what children and young people need to grow and develop.  To be sure that we walk our talk, we’ve stepped back from our work to consider:  What do teens need from us as grantmaking professionals?

We researched teens and their needs, and here’s what we found:

  • After being in school for so many years, teens are a little bit tired of formal learning.  They want to do something hands on!
  • They’re searching for a sense of purpose in their lives.
  • They’re capable of advanced reasoning…think problem solving.
  • They may become philanthropic if led in that direction.

Knowing these things, it seemed natural for us to teach our field of philanthropy to teens.  Our latest video shows what we (and the kids) are learning!

If you know a group of young people who want to make their community a better place, make them aware of our grants for Youthful Eyes and Ideas.