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Positive Youth Development Approach Engages American Indian and Alaska Native Youth

by Cmdr. Micah Woodard, LICSW, BCD, ACSW, Behavioral Health Director, Western Oregon Service Unit

Positive Youth Development Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  is a framework that engages youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families. This approach can reduce risky behaviors, improve social and emotional outcomes, and lead to a successful transition to adulthood. Prevention efforts that use a Positive Youth Development framework can address both risk and protective factors in a more balanced and holistic way. This approach draws on the wisdom and strengths of the American Indian and Alaska Native culture and has shown success in decreasing substance abuse among these youth.

The following evidence-based programs and practices of Positive Youth Development for American Indian and Alaska Native youth have been identified:

Positive Youth Development Approaches to Prevention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one youth development approach to prevention is teaching coping and problem-solving skills through Social and Emotional Learning programs. These programs focus on developing and strengthening communication and problem-solving skills, emotional regulation, conflict resolution, help seeking and coping skills.

A study Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago, showed that significant associations exist between Social and Emotional Learning skills in kindergarten and outcomes in education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health. Youth who participated in SEL programs developed better social-emotional skills, improved academics, and social interactions with their peers. Improvement was also found in their ability to manage stress and depression, and maintain positive attitudes about themselves, school and others.

Positive Youth Development holds significant promise in addressing complex trauma, substance abuse, and suicide.  Our most vulnerable youth are counting on us to be those caring adults that lead the way.

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Cmdr. Micah Woodard, LICSW, BCD, ACSW, Behavioral Health Director, Western Oregon Service Unit
Cmdr. Micah Woodard, MSW, is the behavioral health director at the Western Oregon Service Unit and served as an executive director for a community counseling center. Cmdr. Woodard has over 20 years experience providing community based and school based services.