South Dakota Community Foundation grant helping create Rapid City Alliance for Early Adolescence

New alliance for early adolescence is meant to help area youth create a positive mindset and habits as they prepare for adulthood.
Updated: Jan. 3, 2022 at 11:00 AM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - John Julius, President & CEO of Youth & Family Services, and Corey Odle, the Middle School Program Coordinator for Youth & Family Services discussed a Community Innovation Grant from the South Dakota Community Foundation to help students in the RCAS district heading back to school after the holiday break with the Rapid City Alliance for Early Adolescence.

“The Rapid City Alliance for Early Adolescence is a group of key stakeholders representing out-of-school time service providers and Rapid City Area Schools. Stakeholders who have been participating in online Alliance meetings include Youth & Family Services, Rapid City Club for Boys, Rapid City YMCA, Rural America Initiatives/Ateyapi Program, and Lifeways, as well as representatives from the Rapid City schools,” said Julius.

“Our focus is on the healthy development of early adolescents.  Recent research shows that the adolescent brain is very flexible—making early adolescence a time of both great opportunity and great risk. Adolescents face issues that can have lasting impacts on their journey to adulthood,” said Odle, “Together, the Alliance is working to strengthen social-emotional learning (SEL) and self-regulation skills for middle school-age youth. Out-of-school time providers are aligning their social-emotional learning curriculum to support the SEL curriculum in Rapid City Area Schools. The Alliance plans to develop a Universal Referral Form that parents will receive from teachers and counselors to find an out-of-school time program that best meets the needs of their youth.

“With an increased emphasis on social-emotional learning, we expect that youth will have greater stability and a healthier sense of identity and belonging,” continued Odle. “Other anticipated impacts are decreased bullying, a decline in risky behaviors, an increased sense of understanding and appreciation between youth and their parents, increased engagement and progress in school, and ultimately, increased graduation rates.

“The Community Innovation grant will purchase social-emotional learning materials for RCAS Middle School Counselors to use in classrooms and with individuals,” said Julius. “A portion will provide training for Alliance members on Applied Educational Neuroscience and SEL, and another portion will pay for the final class-leading to certification in Applied Educational Neuroscience for YFS’ Middle School Program Coordinator.

“The Rapid City Alliance for Early Adolescence will assist community members in building an understanding of the positive impact of SEL on early adolescents’ sense of direction and their strengthened commitment to life and career goals,” the two wrapped up. “News of the Alliance’s work will be disseminated through social media by YFS and other members and information will be posted on the 2-1-1 Helpline. The community will learn how SEL ultimately enhances high school completion and opportunities to advance to post-secondary education, as well as complementing the career, life readiness, and workforce development activities RCAS and Elevate Rapid City are undertaking.”

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