April 21, 2024

Students voice needs for community belonging

Find this content useful? Share it with your friends!

Jake Sias

Grant County Herald

Students at the Elbow Lake City Council Meeting recently proposed several community improvement ideas aimed at increasing their sense of belonging and well-being. This presentation was the culmination of an initiative by Horizon Public Health, inspired by findings from its 2022 community health assessment, which revealed only 23% of students felt significantly cared for in their communities.

In an effort to directly address these concerns, Horizon Public Health engaged with the local youth, particularly focusing on all 8th grade students, totaling about 62 individuals. They were asked to share their thoughts on what makes them feel cared for, the factors that contribute to their well-being, the barriers to feeling well, and the actions that could most significantly impact their lives for the better.

Following this initial data collection in spring of last year, a follow-up session this January saw 17 students voluntarily continue their involvement. Together, they reviewed the previously gathered data to ensure its accuracy and relevance before suggesting steps that could be implemented within the community to enhance their well-being.

“They said activities were targeted toward young children, lack of events for teens in the community. Their perception was they felt nobody cared about them here,” stated Amy Reineke of Horizon Public Health. “This is hard for an adult to hear, and I put myself in that, even though I don’t live in this community. I have heard that in the community I live in too, and I recently have had a graduate, and I see all the things those parents are doing for those kids. So how do we ensure that they hear it? That is what this is about. It is not implying that we don’t, it’s just how do we connect what we are doing and how they feel and what they are hearing?” 

“‘Adults talk to us like we don’t matter.’ They want to participate in decision making spaces, which is what this is right here. And ‘the community lacks physical spaces that supports things for us to do.’” 

During the presentation the students had used Barrett as the setting for hypothetical activities and spaces, but their suggestions could be applied to any of the communities in the county. 

Find this content useful? Share it with your friends!