Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Leisure and Prevention Professionals: Collaborating for the Future of Our Youth

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Leisure and Prevention Professionals: Collaborating for the Future of Our Youth

Article excerpt

Inspiring positive change engenders a warm and tranquil feeling for many professionals engaged in their calling. However, hopelessness, fear and anger reflect the feelings of many professionals who work toward change for youth living in high-risk environments. An intensive two-day search conference allowed professionals from two fields - working towards the same goal - to discuss their feelings. The results were feeling of connectedness and hope - for a positive future for youth - among those who attended. The conference brought prevention and leisure professionals together to collaborate on strategies to reduce and prevent ATOD (alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs) abuse among youth who live in high-risk environments.

"That these youth will be positively engaged and given skills and a passion for certain activities and people which will allow them to make personal decisions. To create and environment where children are safe to grow and take risks and have fun."

"More involvement in recreation and prevention programs. Additionally, they will have true alternatives to negative activities."

"A healthier lifestyle and the ability, mind and skills to make appropriate life choices."


The power of the search conference clearly was not limited to the two and half days in Indianapolis. Conference participants have gone back to their communities and are spreading the energy to their colleagues, forming new partnerships and in some cases already delivering new collaborative programs to constituents.

The final stage of the search conference assessment was the post-conference evaluation four months after the event. Letters of explanation, and a post-conference evaluation were mailed to all conference participants (42 evaluations mailed). Of the 17 responses received, five were from leisure professionals, nine from prevention professionals, and three from individuals representing both [both employed in parks and recreation agencies, one employed in prevention agency] professions.


A number of action collaborations grew out of the conference. Many projects are in the planning and execution stages; they include:

* plans to host a second search conference to explore creating a formal NRPA-NAPPA partnership;

* a fall program for youth five to seven years old in Indianapolis;

* a "Summer is Fun" program tor 120 youth ages five to 13 years who may already be involved or may become involved with drugs in Kansas City, Missouri;

* an invitation to leisure professionals to participate in a quarterly prevention network in Grayslake, Illinois;

* a collaboration between the country health department and a teen recreation basketball program in Benton Harbor, Michigan;

* an art, play and prevention education program as part of a nine-week summer day camp serving 60-85 children ages 7-14 weekly in Holland, Michigan;

* a cooperative after-school art club between a prevention agency and the Salvation Army in Clinton, Iowa;

* and a teen advisory council in Evanston, Illinois.


Sixteen of the 17 respondents (94%) indicated that partnerships are indeed developing, both between the professions of leisure and prevention and with arts and cultural heritage programs, judicial and law enforcement systems, community development organizations, school systems, mental health agencies, and others in social service delivery. Some of the partnerships that have developed in response to the search conference are the following:

* Chicago Park District and Youth Service Project

* Northwest Youth Center and the Chicago Park District

* Project Rehab and the Michigan Parks and Recreation Association

* Project Rehab and Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation

* Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreation and Jackson County Anti-Drug sales tax group, prevention specialists, art and jazz museum

* Toledo Metroparks, school system, juvenile courts, enforcement agencies

* St. …

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