A council of community partners that deal with children and teens has created and begun rolling out a master plan to look out for the best interests of local youths.

The need for a youth-focused strategy, according to its creators, came to light after data presented in 2015 showed weaknesses in areas such as teen pregnancy, high school graduation, child abuse and neglect, and the use of drugs and alcohol.

Council for Youth Development spearheaded the plan-creation process in 2017, and is implementing the initial steps during the first quarter of this year. The master plan includes setting benchmarks to measure improvements.

The purpose is to create systemic changes that lead to better outcomes for youths so they can reach their potential, said Heather Carson, the council’s family success coordinator.

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Tackling concerns

In late 2016 and early 2017, Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County started a new Impact Grant Program. Instead of waiting for organizations to request funding for specific grants, Heritage Fund identified important areas of need in the community and contacted organizations and individuals to lead efforts to effect positive changes, said Tracy Souza, Heritage Fund’s president and CEO.

With the data about local youth a concern, Heritage Fund decided to tackle positive youth development, one of five focus areas from the Impact Grant Program.

“We’re not doing very well in meeting the basics with our youth, and we ought to be able to do better with the resources we have in this community,” Souza said.

Heritage Fund contacted Foundation For Youth about leading the effort and is supporting it with $90,000 annually for three years, Carson said. Faurecia, one of Foundation for Youth’s cornerstone partners, also is contributing $10,000 annually, she said.

“At Faurecia, one of our focus areas for community involvement is youth development — life skills programs. In Columbus, the CYD group is really complementary to the work FFY has done, and being part of it is a natural fit,” said Tobi Herron, community and employee involvement director for Faurecia Clean Mobility in North America.

The $300,000 in financial support enabled Foundation For Youth to make the Council for Youth Development, for which FFY serves as fiscal agent, more than the part-time organization it had been since 2005.

“They were looking for a way to bring about the work of the council and lift it a little,” said Chuck Kime, FFY’s executive director.

Carson was hired lead the council and started Jan. 1, 2017.

We’re not doing very well in meeting the basics with our youth, and we ought to be able to do better with the resources we have in this community.

Tracy Souza, Heritage Fund president and CEO

Early learning and goals for children are things she is passionate about, Carson said. Her background includes teaching, working for Teachers Without Borders and volunteering a few years ago with the Pre-K For All initiative.

Formulating plans

The Council for Youth Development is a coalition of more than 50 community partners working to help children and their families reach their potential by coordinating and aligning community efforts.

A steering committee, which meets every other month, includes Carson and representatives of each of the five cornerstone organizations supporting the council: Foundation For Youth, Community Education Coalition, United Way of Bartholomew County, Faurecia and Heritage Fund.

“We work to help the overall direction and goal review for CYD,” said Herron, a steering committee member.

A guiding team, which leads monthly work sessions, represents the community on a broader basis. It includes representatives from Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., Bartholomew County Juvenile Court Services, Columbus Parks and Recreation Department and Family Service, Inc.

The council has work groups that target three specific areas: youth empowerment, family engagement and professional development.

“We’re combining all the efforts of the work we do for kids to get at the whole child,” Carson said.

Nearly 40 people on average attended the series of work group sessions. Efforts included getting partners in agreement on a vision for the plan, identifying community assets that could aid efforts and creating goals for the plan, Carson said.

Rather than short-term fixes, the goal became long-term systemic changes, she said.

By late 2017, the collective efforts of the community partners resulted in creation of the Youth Master Plan, the blueprint for moving forward for the council and its partner agencies.

A focus for the first quarter of 2018 is training with community partners to implement the framework of the youth master plan. As the year progresses, community partners will adapt the plan to their programming and make changes that meet established goals, Carson said.

Optimism abounds

Herron said it’s a big deal to help the community and its youth, and put resources behind it.

Joseline Medina agrees.

The 22-year-old IUPUI student and 2013 Columbus North High School graduate joined the Council for Youth Development’s effort in January.

Medina, a criminal justice major, learned about the initiative from a co-worker with Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. As a bilingual communications coordinator for the school district, Medina helps make connections between local schools and Latino parents and children.

Medina, who said she has a passion for working with children, spoke with Carson, which cemented her interest in helping.

Rich Stenner, past president of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Board, has worked with the Council for Youth Development for 15 years.

Stenner said the right people are assembled on the council, a clear idea of aligning assets for the youth in the community has been achieved and the council understands how the community can better serve its youth.

“I’m very excited about our chances as a community to make a difference for youth and children being raised here,” Stenner said.

Master plan leaders

Here’s a look at the Council for Youth Development’s steering committee and guiding team that led efforts to create the Bartholomew County Youth Master Plan.


  • Tracy Souza, Heritage Fund – the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County
  • Tobi Herron, Faurecia Clean Mobility
  • Soeren Peters, Faurecia Clean Mobility
  • Mark Stewart, United Way of Bartholomew County
  • Kathy Oren, Community Education Coalition
  • Chuck Kime, Foundation For Youth
  • Heather Carson, Council for Youth Development


  • Rich Stenner, Bartholomew Consolidated School Board
  • Cheri Stone, United Way of Bartholomew County
  • Nichole Phillips, Bartholomew County Juvenile Court Services
  • Stacy Findley, Columbus Parks and Recreation
  • Julie Miller, Family Service Inc.
  • Chuck Kime, Foundation For Youth
  • Heather Carson, Council for Youth Development

Upcoming Council for Youth Development event

What: Indiana Youth Institute’s “State of the Child: The Well-being of Indiana Youth” Data Cafe

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 26

Where: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Terrace Room, 1200 Central Ave., Columbus

Notable: Lunch will be provided at the free event, for which a reservation is required. People interested in attending should RSVP on the Council for Youth Development website, cydbartholomew.org.

Youth Master Plan outline

The Bartholomew County Youth Master Plan is based on five pillars:

  • Health — an integrated community that promotes holistic wellness where all thrive
  • Safety — an environment that provides protection from all forms of harm
  • Education — high-quality education that promotes success in school, career and life
  • Engagement — a welcoming environment that empowers active participation and contribution toward growth of self and community
  • Support — a nurturing support network that builds personal assets and instills a sense of hope for the future

From six priorities listed in the strategic plan, three have been chosen for the initial focus:

  • Youth empowerment
  • Family engagement
  • Professional development

The effort will include sharing of benchmark data, with the following targets set as measurements of success:

  • 98 percent high school graduation rate
  • 60 percent postsecondary attainment
  • Decreasing juvenile detention
  • Decreasing child abuse and neglect
  • Decreasing the number of local Children in Need of Services cases
  • No youth suicides
  • Increasing student attendance
  • Improvement in the Indiana Youth Survey
  • Growing the community’s developmental assets profile
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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.