Newburyport Learns to “Let Grow”

This past December Dr. Peter Gray from Boston College came to speak to the Newburyport community about the positive effects of play for children. The interest in this speaker came from a local parent who had heard about the Let Grow initiative out of Utah. There, the courts changed the definition of childhood neglect after questions of whether or not kids should be allowed to play alone in the park.

Dr. Gray presented his position, from years of research, that the decrease of play and the increase in mental health disorders is no coincidence. He explained how when children engage in self-chosen, self-directed play, they learn to create and direct their own activities, solve their own problems, negotiate, compromise and cooperate. All of which are now being taught as part of social emotional learning curriculum in school because children are lacking these basic skills. Gray also argues that play helps develop more than just social skills but can also help in many areas of development including physical, intellectual, moral, emotional and personal.

The Let Grow Foundation provides support and ideas to parents, schools and towns who want to encourage “free-range parenting” in their communities. Newburyport will be exploring ways to encourage this model of play this upcoming spring. Stay tuned!


Georgetown Staff Trained on the Assets

This past November over 100 Georgetown staff at Perley Elementary School and Georgetown Middle High School were trained on the 40 Developmental Assets and how they can be used as a tool to enhance the school day experience.

Teachers were given the opportunity to look at the Georgetown data from the Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behavior Survey that was given to all students in grates 6-12 in November 2017. The data shows which of the 40 Developmental Assets are strong in Georgetown and which ones can be improved. The data was used as a jumping off point for discussion, helping to talk about what surprised them, what they had seen in the classroom, and question things that might not match their personal experience. The data is one of many tools that are used by the ECAB Network to help guide communities to supports and programs that are a good fit for youth. It is only one piece of the puzzle.

Staff were also given the opportunity to brainstorm about how the 40 Assets can supplement the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) work already taking place in their classrooms. The Assets overlap well with the SEL approach, with both frameworks identifying Social Awareness, Relationship Skills and Responsible Decision-Making as integral skills for youth to develop in order to be successful. The Assets merely provide a common language that school administration, teachers, parents and community members can all share so youth are hearing a consistent message whether they are in school, at home, or at the library, for example. The Assets can help build a strong sense of community, and bring people who care about youth together, to increase collaborations and supports for youth.


Amesbury’s 2nd SPACES Evening Draws Large Crowd

Amesbury’s second SPACES event (Student, Parent and Community Educational Series) was a huge success. Over 90 parents, teachers and community members heard Jon Mattleman present his keystone presentation, “The Secret Lives of Teens and Tweens” on Thursday, November 29th at the Amesbury High School Auditorium.

“The Secret Lives of Teens” is a high-energy presentation that actively focuses on what teens are really thinking, what they fear, why they do not share more, and how adults can effectively support the teens in their lives. This presentation covers areas such as depression, suicide, ‘acting out’ behaviors, drug and alcohol use, and more. 

Attendees left with new ways to understand teens and their behaviors (90%) and with strategies they can implement to more effectively communicate with their teens (92%). Parents were also able to build their confidence in their ability to connect with their teen (77%).

The SPACES team has a few events in the works for 2019 including a parent workshop, which will give parents an opportunity to talk one on one with local experts and get more specific skill building around communicating with their teens. Future speakers are being booked to discuss topics including screen time and drug paraphernalia recognition.

These initiatives have all been targeted at improving positive family communication, one of the 40 Developmental Assets that we are trying to build for youth in Amesbury. Only 37% of youth in Amesbury reported having this Asset in the Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behavior survey they took in 2017. The first presentation was on how to listen and effectively communicate with teens given by Anya McDavitt,
Director of Youth Services at North Shore Community Mediation Center. If you missed it, you can watch the presentation HERE.

This work is done is being done as part of a larger regional partnership with the Essex County Asset Builder Network, a group of communities working together to improve supports for youth in their communities.


Georgetown to Build Youth Rec Center

This summer over 40 youth from Georgetown grades 6-12 were given the opportunity to come together and brainstorm ideas for what they would like in a Rec Center.  The town is in the planning stages of making a Rec Center a reality, and from the beginning they wanted youth to be involved and have a voice in the process.  The need for a Rec Center began with discussions around the Attitudes and Behaviors survey and the realization that there were not many spaces in Georgetown where  youth could go to hang out.  Read the post below from Superintendent, Carol Jacob’s blog inviting teens to participate in the focus group.  There were a lot of great ideas that came out of the focus group and a lot of consensus around the types of activities and supports youth would like to see.  Discussions are ongoing among town leaders regarding next steps.

Plans to Launch Rec Center for MHS Students Needs Student Voice



Boys and Girls Club Youth Visit Salisbury Library

This summer a group of campers from the Boys and Girls Club visited the Salisbury Library.  They got a tour of the new facilities, were taught how to use and take out library materials and what activities and events were available through the library.  Then the youth took some time to think about their “Superpowers”.  An asset building activity designed to help young people identify their strengths and understand their ability to make a difference. This activity helped build the following assets for youth; Caring, Equality and Social Justice, Personal Power, Positive View of Personal Future, Sense of Purpose.  Thank you to the Salisbury Library and the Boys and Girls Club for partnering together to make this opportunity possible.



Salisbury Police Host first National Night Out

A hot, humid night at the beginning of August, possibility of rain, but nothing would stop the Salisbury Police from hosting their first National Night Out.  This event, organized nationally, is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.  The Essex County Asset Builder Network met with some of the officers a week before the event to talk about the 40 Developmental Assets and how events like this support positive youth development by creating safe, fun activities for families and showing young adults that the police and their community care.



In the News, New Content, Things to Do, Uncategorized

Little Free Library: Helping Build Neighborhood Communities

49% of youth in our region feel as though they live in a caring neighborhood environment. Research shows that young people are more likely to be successful and feel loved if they grow up in a supportive neighborhood. Summertime is an excellent opportunity to host neighborhood gatherings and start playgroups where your children can get to know their neighbors and build friendships. By reaching out to your neighbors and forming a community, it’s easier to feel comfortable letting your children play outside and hang out with neighborhood children.

One way to encourage youth (and adults) to establish a neighborhood community and read for pleasure is by taking part in or starting your own Little Free Library! Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Visiting a little free library or starting your own helps promote assets like establishing a caring neighborhood environment where young adults can get to know their neighborhoods through a shared passion of reading.

To find a Little Free Library near you visit:


Events, Uncategorized

Youth At Risk Conference Highlights

The Youth at Risk (YAR) conference took place on Friday, June 8th at Salem State University. The conference is the region’s only annual all-day conference for professionals who work with at-risk youth. The event features 38 breakout sessions, as well as keynote speakers, program exhibitions and networking opportunities.

Pam Lundquist, ECAB Network Executive Committee Member and GeorgetownCARES Chair, provided her comments on the event.  Thank you, Pam!

Attending the Youth at Risk Conference was a like breath of fresh air! Every year, almost 1,000 local professionals serving at-risk (all) youth gather to both teach and learn from each other’s amazing experiences. Social workers, educators, therapists and law enforcement all contribute to an inspiring full-day series of workshops plus keynote speakers and musical performances by talented youth.

This year the keynote speaker was Debby Irving, author of the seminal book, Waking Up White: Finding Myself in the Story of Race. A mesmerizing presenter, she reminded us of numerous historical events that have contributed to the lack of racial understanding and justice that we now experience. Speaking about her own upbringing, Ms. Irving asks that we all remain open-minded to continual learning about how we have been socialized to perceive “the other” from a young age. Sifting through and seeing clearly the origin of identities we take on ourselves and assign to others is key to creating a culture built to appreciate differences rather than crush them. It was a very thought-provoking and enlightening day!

-Pam Lundquist

In the News, New Content, Things to Do, Uncategorized

Building Stronger Family Communication

The Community Call to Action meetings sparked discussions about ways to promote positive family communication. Youth revealed statistics on youth behaviors and attitudes, including that 84% of youth in the region feel that their families provide high levels of love and support. Meanwhile, only 41% of youth feel that they communicate well with their parents. In this question, students were asked if they feel as though they could talk to their parents about tough topics or reach out to parents for advice on relationships, drinking, etc. The resulting conversation led to defining what positive family communication looks like and the difference between feeling loved and establishing positive communication channels between parents and children.

In our busy, 21st century culture of over packed schedules and constant technology, it can be difficult to find time to communicate with children in healthy ways. Positive family communication can lead to stronger relationships where children feel comfortable sharing their feelings and seeking guidance from parents. This TIME article provides suggestions on how to establishment positive communication rituals.

Here’s some information about the asset, Positive Family Communication and some ideas on how to build it in your home:

Here are the facts

Research shows that young people who experience positive communication with their parents are more likely to grow up healthy and are more willing to seek their parents’ advice and counsel. About 28 percent of young people, ages 11–18, enjoy positive communication with their parents and are willing to seek their parents’ counsel and advice, according to Search Institute surveys. Practice consistently communicating—talking and listening to young people—with an open mind and heart.

Tips for building this asset

Positive communication also means listening to understand a young person’s perspective, not to advocate your position. Be available when young people need you—and even when they think they don’t. Take good care of yourself so when your children want to talk, you can give them your full attention.

Also try this

In your home and family: Make it easy for your child to spend time talking with you: Keep an extra stool or chair in the kitchen, den, home office, or workshop area. When you’re in the car together is a great time to chat, too.

In your neighborhood and community: Ask young people you know caring questions, such as: What was the best thing about school today? What was the best act in the talent show? Why? Listen to their answers and respond accordingly.

In your school or youth program: During parent meetings, discuss the importance of positive communication between parents and children.



Positive Youth Development Training

FREE for Essex County Asset Builder partners with code MVPHC you can participate in one or both days of this training to learn how you can implement a positive youth development approach in your community, and learn about the SEARCH Institute’s new Developmental Relationships framework.  All community members are welcome to attend.  See flyer below to register.  Description of Days also below.

PYD Conference Flyer and Registration

Day 1– Positive Youth Development: Morning session will focus on the research and theory behind positive youth development and provide examples of models that have been used to implement this this approach, including but not limited to the 40 Developmental Assets. Theory of levels of youth engagement will also be covered. The afternoon session will cover strategies and best practices for engaging all community sectors in youth development. We will review the intersection of the Youth Assets Model with the Strategic Prevention Framework and will hear from our local partners about experiences they have had utilizing this approach and have time for discussion, collaboration and brainstorming.

AM- Positive Youth Development 101

    •  Overview of positive youth development approach
    •  Introduction to 40 Developmental Asset Approach
    •  Youth engagement

PM- Engaging Community, Implementing a PYD approach

    • Overlap between SPF and PYD
    • Engaging youth in environmental and policy change
    • Strategies for implementing PYD approach in communities
    • Best practices and discussion

Day 2- Developmental Relationships: will feature SEARCH Institute Trainer Kelly Felton presenting on the Developmental Relationships framework www.search-institute.org/developmental-relationships  

Young people are more likely to grow up successfully when they experience developmental relationships with important people in their lives. Developmental relationships are close connections through which young people discover who they are, cultivate abilities to shape their own lives, and learn how to engage with and contribute to the world around them. Search Institute has identified five elements—expressed in 20 specific actions—that make relationships powerful in young people’s lives.

PYD Conference Flyer and Registration