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Our latest conversation starter: Golden

By Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer

It’s here!

Golden, our conversation starter that celebrates young people ages 13 and beyond, is here. This book encapsulates seven time-tested youth development principles that inform our grantmaking and apply to our mission of promoting economic freedom through education.

Golden has been a long time in coming. It’s based on our research and understanding of youth development — in this case the teen years, which is a period of remarkable transformation in a young person’s life. We titled it “Golden” because we believe the teen years are exactly that. Too often, teens are viewed negatively, but we don’t think that should be the case at all. We think teens are promising, brilliant, and VALUABLE. Teens have so much to give to the world.

The principles found in Golden aren’t necessarily new. They’re not groundbreaking or even all that unique. But they are paradigm-shifting in the sense that adults can’t direct a teen’s transformation. They can, however, help prepare caring, supportive environments for teens as they make the journey to adulthood.

The seven principles in Golden are:

  • Mutual respect underlies EVERYTHING.
  • Real really matters.
  • A little sweat builds a lot of equity.
  • Attention and commitment come from within.
  • Patience is faith in action.
  • You need to see it to be it.
  • There is more in us than we know.

For the past several days, we’ve been sharing these principles on our Facebook page. And, of course, there’s much more information in Golden about them. We encourage you to read it yourself and see if it meshes with your own thinking. If you’d like a copy, please email me at brochford@dekkofoundation.org, or you can message us on our Facebook page. You can also read an online version of Golden on our website here.

Golden is the fourth of our child development conversation starters that we’ve produced over the years, the others being our Owner’s Manual for newborns through age 5; Sturdy Stems for young people ages 6-12; and 7 Simple Ideas to Make Your Classroom Bloom! for educators and parents.

We call them “conversation starters” because they’re intended to do just that: begin a dialogue about the great things that happen when adults step back and consider what young people need to grow and develop. But they’re not written in stone. We believe the principles described in them are timeless, but our understanding of them is updated and changed as we learn more — especially as we work with grantseekers who are trying to do what’s best for young people each day.

I stated earlier that the teen years are a period of remarkable transformation. In fact, they’re a lot like a chrysalis — the last stage before a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Interestingly enough, the Greek origin of “chrysalis” means “gold.”

Like the caterpillar, teens experience a time of intense, inward-focused development that prepares them to one day step forward in the world with all of their beautiful colors on display.

We hope you enjoy reading Golden and find it valuable in your own work.

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.)

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.