We can make a difference if you join us. Let's begin today, right now. A small group of people can help change the world. Such were the messages presented Thursday at the 2010 Summit for Youth & Families at the Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The event, which brought more than 175 Hernando residents included politicians, business representatives, educators and social service providers.
Hernando Youth Initiative chairwoman Tracy Echols stressed the potential economic impacts of preventing destructive behaviors.
"If we want to balance the budget in Hernando County, let's fix the issues," Echols said. States spend more money on substance abuse than on the programs designed to prevent it, she said.
And of the money that is spent, only a small percentage is set aside to stop problems before they happen.
"Of every dollar spent, four cents was for prevention," Echols said. "You're spending all of that money on the back end. When the horse is out of the barn, it's too late."
Jill Kolasa of the Hernando school district discussed the county's high school graduation rate of 75 percent. Her subcommittee emphasized mentoring and community involvement to help improve the graduation rate.
There are many reasons students don't graduate, Kolasa said. These include substance abuse, domestic violence and gangs, teen pregnancy and child wellbeing.
"People need hope," she said. "People need hope that there's food on the table … shelter over their heads … we need to have hope that there's going to be jobs for them in the future."
Child advocate Jack Levine served as keynote speaker for the day's event. He stressed the need for participants to make connections with each other as well as within their own families. Parents and other involved, caring adults can help youngsters stay on the right path.
"Most families spend less than seven minutes a day communicating," he said.
Levine urged parents to set aside their phones and computers and spend more time with their families. Set a good example, he said.
Kids learn from what they are exposed to, Levine said. Kids learn racism from racists and violence from those who are violent.
Levine suggested holding an inter-generational summit in the county. Without a plan for elders, kids suffer, he said. Age groups end up competing for resources instead of making decisions in the best interest of everyone.
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.