The collective strategy to help youths is encouraging

For more than a year, the Council for Youth Development has led a communitywide collaborative effort to help more local youths reach their potential. That’s because of concerns over increases in child abuse and the benefit of improving high school graduation and attendance rates, among other factors.

The belief that more can be done to help local youths has prompted more than 50 community partners that work with children in some way to get involved.

What they have created is CYD’s Youth Master Plan, a collective strategy that all partners can adapt to their programs to help meet agreed-upon goals and high benchmarks.

The plan focuses on health, safety, education, engagement and support. Among its benchmarks:

•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 (CHINS) cases

•No youth suicides

•Increasing student attendance

•Improvement in the Indiana Youth Survey

•Growing the community’s developmental assets profile

Those are ambitious and welcome goals. Helping children should be a community priority, and the youth plan is proof of that.

The collective effort also is another example of the “Columbus Way” in solving challenges. It brings together stakeholders — those with a vested interest in an issue — to share ideas and work together to reach solutions.

Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County got the initiative rolling by contacting Foundation For Youth — which has been involved in youth programming and projects for decades — about spearheading the effort and agreeing to provide $90,000 in support annually for three years. Faurecia also kicked in $10,000 annually for three years. Those grants were important because they enabled the Council for Youth Development, for which FFY is the fiscal agent, to work on the Youth Master Plan full time. From there, other community partners agreed to help.

This community has a history of meeting challenges and has shown that collaboration works. Examples include redeveloping The Commons, establishing the iGrad mentoring program to help at-risk students graduate from high school and creating the Columbus Learning Center.

The “Columbus Way” also is being used now to tackle the difficult community problem of drug addiction, particularly opioids. Solutions are beginning to move forward in that effort, and the Youth Master Plan is in its rollout and training phase. Implementation begins later this year.

It’s encouraging to see a wide array of community partners invested in helping more local youths achieve their potential. Such a collective effort makes it a better bet that significant strides will be achieved.