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Survey says news is good for Hudson youth

Hudson School District's AODA Prevention Coordinator Dana Krahenbuhl, left, and Director of Student Services Cory McIntyre believe there is reason to smile about the results of this year's Developmental Assets and Risk Behaviors survey conducted by the Search Institute. The more than 900 students surveyed reported a significant increase in assets like responsibility, positive peer influence and school engagement and decreases in risk behaviors like alcohol use, fighting and gambling. Photo by Meg Heaton

When it comes to teenagers, the news is often about negative behavior and consequences but the news is better in Hudson.

The Hudson School District recently received the results of the Search Institute Developmental Assets and Risk Behaviors Survey completed by 985 students in seventh, ninth and 11th grade in February. The survey has been conducted in Hudson every five years since the 1985. The survey has been administered to more than 3 million teenagers since 1990 in 45 states.

The 2010 results were a very positive surprise. The survey focuses on 40 developmental assets that Search believes children need to lead successful and fulfilling lives. They include "external" assets like adult relationships beyond family, positive peer influences, community resources and youth programs, and a sense of belonging. "Internal" assets measured include things like school engagement, self esteem, restraint, responsibility and achievement, and motivation.

In this year's survey, 37 of the 40 assets measured increased 92.5 percent, and 26 of the 40 improved significantly as measured by Search, a 5 percent or more increase. In 2005, only 10 of the 40 assets improved over the previous survey in 2000, or a 25 percent increase.

On the flip side, the news was good as well. Risks behaviors include things like alcohol use, fighting truancy, shoplifting and gambling. The students reported decreases in 21 of the 24 risk behaviors the survey checks. That is an 87.5 percent decrease over the 2005 results when only six of the 24 behaviors decreased over the 2000 results. Twelve of the 24 risk behaviors decreased by more than 5 percent. (See charts that accompany this story in the print edition.)

Hudson School District Director of Student Services Cory McIntyre presented the results to the school board last month with the district's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Coordinator Dana Krahenbuhl. They told board members that the challenge now is to determine what's changed over the last five years, why the results were so good this year and how to keep the momentum going.

"This is a very positive message from the kids to the community -- keep doing what you're doing," said McIntyre. "The results of efforts made throughout the community aren't always immediately evident but this makes it clear that they are working. It should be a shot of energy to everyone to keep doing what they are doing."

To that end, McIntyre and Krahenbuhl will be making a series of presentations throughout the school system and the community about the results. There are plans to talk with students and teachers, administrators, and community groups like Youth Action Hudson, SOS, Parent Who Care, the Rotary clubs, Boosters, local governments and Hudson Hospital.

Just what these groups and others are doing to make a difference to youth in Hudson is what the school district will be focusing on in the months ahead. The district plans on putting together focus groups of students to talk about what impacted their responses and what they like and don't like about their school and their community.

Krahenbuhl said the survey gives voice to students who may not be heard from otherwise. She points to the notion often quoted about teens that "everybody's using," meaning marijuana and other drugs. In her work with HHS students, she's learned otherwise.

"The kids who use brag about it. Kids who don't - don't. The survey gives a more accurate picture from the kids themselves. It gives a voice to students we don't get to hear from."

Krahenbuhl said the real value in the Search Survey is that it is focused on the local situation and, as a result, provides useful information to build on. "In the groups I've worked with over years throughout the community, it is clear they have embraced the 40 assets and the impact that has had for our kids is clear in these results. Every-one is making a difference."

McIntyre says that while the news is very good, the district plans on maintaining "a continuous improvement mindset." The plan is to identify what is working and build on that.

"The idea is kind of bittersweet in a way. While the assets went up significantly and the risk behaviors came down, there is still a lot to do and kids to reach. We're trending in the right direction and we want to do even better," said McIntyre.

The results of the survey are posted on the Hudson School District website at Information about the Search survey is available at McIntyre can be reach at (715) 377-3703. Krahenbuhl can be reached at (715) 377-3711.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604