Youth Proactive in the Vision of STEPS

by E. Richard Fortunato, STEPS Advisory Board Member

  As a member of the STEPS Advisory Board for Media, I've enjoyed an upfront view of the mission, work projects, contributions and stories of virtually all of the sectors making up the coalition called STEPS, Southington's Town-wide Efforts to Promote Success.   

by E. Richard Fortunato, STEPS Advisory Board Member

  As a member of the STEPS Advisory Board for Media, I've enjoyed an upfront view of the mission, work projects, contributions and stories of virtually all of the sectors making up the coalition called STEPS, Southington's Town-wide Efforts to Promote Success.   

  Two and a half years ago, I attended meetings and observed the work of some of our youth involved in MAPS as they took on one valued community project after another. My presence was warmly received and the kids made me feel I belonged to their group. But the ideas, planning and logistics were theirs from start to completion.  

  One of their outstanding projects completed in June 2012 was to establish a tradition of our young people planting a STEPS tree somewhere in our community. That first tree is in Recreation Park. In 2013, another young tree was planted on the grounds of Mary Our Queen Church.  The symbolism is powerful, relating the growing of a sapling to its mature years as a strong and healthy tree to the nurturing of our youth as they mature as healthy and successful productive citizens, respecting community and society holding high moral standards and respect for others.

  This year I attended a meeting of the STEPS Youth Council, successor to previous STEPS youth groups which today consists of those from 7th through 12th grade. I was amazed at how the work of this group has matured just as its members have.

  

  Adult coordinator, Evelyn Ciaburri, facilitates the monthly meetings while quietly and effectively teaching by example the values of teamwork, responsibility, creativity, organization, project development and leadership skills. Meetings to start at a conference table as the Youth Council works through an agenda of progress reports and new ideas.  They then breakout into workshop groups rotating through a series of topics and projects in work.

    

  A large table in one room has a street map of Southington where the students have plotted the sites of locations of major vendors of paraphernalia used in connection with risky substances. Red-circled map points identify and correlate the sites to school zones. The Youth Council has taken detailed data available from visits to the sites by a select adult group and is graphically laying out the findings for the STEPS Advisory Board.

      

  A computer workshop enables YC members to review a presentation about the nature of e-cigarettes based on internet searches for information and answers to questions about these locally available items. Another group brainstorms ideas for the Youth Council’s "Protect Your Reputation" campaign, a follow up of the alcohol informational posters they worked on the previous month.

  The YC has developed and promoted positive campaigns with regard to alcohol and drugs. They recently met with the Town Council and are developing ideas for a town ordinance regarding the responsibility of adults for underage drinking under the new state hosting law.   This high energy, smart group of students are aware of what is happening on the ground in the community and they are doing some of the most important work of STEPS.