The 2021 Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey administration is now beginning. The YAS Committee wants to ensure that parents, educators, faith leaders, and other community members understand the survey and its significant impact on our youth.
What is the Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey?
Every two years since 2005, 8th, 10th, and 12th-grade students in participating Ottawa County schools answer questions for the Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey (YAS). The students anonymously provide information about their substance use choices and perception of use, behaviors, family life, social experiences, emotional status, nutrition and body health, and overall well-being.
Ottawa County students are not exclusive to participating in assessment surveys like the YAS. Students across Michigan participate in the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth (MiPHY) survey every two years. Nationally, schools across America participate in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). While the YAS, MiPHY, and YRBS are comparable, there are differences between them. The unique point about the Ottawa County YAS is that local Ottawa County prevention professionals create and deliver the survey to participating schools. Having ownership of the questions and data relative to our youth allows locals organizations to act responsively to the needs of our community.
The Ottawa County Youth Assessment survey is critical to our work. This data helps us understand the challenges facing our youth and how we need to adapt our programs to fully support families in our community. The YAS is critical as we apply for funding, make program decisions, and update programs. Without this data, our ability to bring in funds for afterschool and other programs would be significantly diminished.
– Arbor Circle
Why do Ottawa County schools and community agencies want to know what teens are doing?
At no cost to the school, this pertinent and confidential information helps schools structure their curriculum to help the students within their school system. External organizations do not use the data collected from the YAS to drive local decisions made by the schools. However, gathering this local information enables community organizations and agencies to receive necessary grants and other funding for further parent education, family support, youth prevention programs, and more for the Ottawa County community at large.
The Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey is extremely useful and beneficial for understanding youth and family needs. At Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence, we closely follow the Ottawa County Youth Assessment data trends around healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors and non-consensual sexual experiences.”
– Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence
But, why is this information important?
Since 2011, alcohol use among 8th through 12th-grade students in Ottawa County has decreased by 5.1%. Data from the YAS enabled prevention specialists to educate youth, parents, and educators about the harmful effects of youth alcohol use. In turn, youth alcohol use in Ottawa County is trending downward. While this is a positive trend, not all behaviors among local youth are heading in a positive direction. For that reason, it is necessary to continue researching the choices, behaviors, emotional status, and social experiences of Ottawa County students by providing the YAS to local schools. In doing so, we can provide more tailored education to youth, their parents, educators, and more support through prevention and support programs, local faith leaders, and the general community.
“One of the convictions of the Christian faith is to care well for the younger ones among us. YAS provides us the opportunity to see who among our students are in need of care, what kind of care is needed and so opens possibilities for the church to creatively and collaboratively meet real needs in our community. “
– Jon Brown, Pastor, Pillar Church
How does the YAS impact youth?
The YAS is like other reputable surveyors, such as Pew Research, but at a local level. Similarly, the end goal of surveying and researching is to obtain data to help identify needs in our community and support sound decision-making. Without asking questions, researching, and gathering information about the youth in our community, we will not have the ability to provide adequate help or prevention. We must meet teens where they are socially, emotionally, and behaviorally so that we may provide the most appropriate tools to educate them, along with their parents and other support systems.
As a parent of three kids, I find this information eye-opening! While I know that my kids do not live in a bubble, seeing the stats about substance use, sexting, and even trafficking, helps remind us to have those important conversations. If not our kids, it is someone they know who is participating in something potentially harmful. Without this information, we will live naively as parents and a community, not knowing how to help our kids.
– Joy, Ottawa County parent