Youth Engagement Toolkit

Starting A Group

School Red Tape

In order to establish a trusted relationship with the school, you need to form a solid contact. This will guide you through the process of building that relationship.

Sell the benefits to the school:

  • Helps them achieve TEKS established by TEA
    • §115.32. Health 1, Grades 9-10 (b) (7) (C) develop strategies for preventing use of tobacco, alcohol, and other addictive substances
    • §115.33. Advanced Health, Grades 11-12 (c) (4) (A) research current health-related standards related to health information and products from valid sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration;
  • Helps them achieve Counseling Guidelines established by TEA
    • Describe the variety of opportunities available to them in the school setting
    • Develop their leadership skills
    • Function effectively as group members
  • Emphasize how well the school is currently handling the issue (tobacco prevention and youth involvement), but also tell them how you can enhance what they are already doing.
  • Participating in statewide Say What! Youth Movement that is supported by the Texas School Safety Center and the Department of State Health Services makes them eligible for mini-grants and other funding opportunities geared toward improving the health of the school and community
  • Show school administrators that allowing a group is worth the extra administrative and teacher time and expense because it will have a positive effect on students.
    • The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention promotes programs and organizations that focus on leadership and youth development because bonding to groups is a protective asset that gives young people a sense of legitimacy, decreasing problems during adolescence.
    • Scales and Leffert (1999) found that participation in these activities increased safety, increased academic achievement and decreased involvement in risky behaviors, such as drug use and juvenile delinquency. Scales, P., and N. Leffert. 1999. Developmental Assets: A Synthesis of the Scientific Research on Adolescent Development. Minneapolis, Minn.: Search Institute.

After you have stated the benefits to the school and emphasized how you will be able to help them, be sure to ask the school for what you need.

  • Access to students
  • Assistance in recruiting students (permission to hang posters in hallways and bathrooms)

Try multiple approaches.

  • Make the initial contact and keep making it. Find a reason to visit the school, share information or offer free services first to show that you are willing; they may be more willing to provide students for your group after you have proven your trustworthiness
  • Make contact with anyone you may know within the school - a personal connection goes a long way! (Bobette Doerrie- Panhandle Crisis Center)
  • Find out from the school secretary the teachers' names and conference period times. Then arrange a personal visit by e-mail or phone. Respect their time and be brief. (Bobette Doerrie- Panhandle Crisis Center)
  • If multiple teachers are interested, consider making a presentation to staff on the importance of youth engagement and how your program helps them. (Bobette Doerrie- Panhandle Crisis Center)
  • Ensure that all information and materials you take to the school are professional looking with correct grammar and spelling. (Bobette Doerrie- Panhandle Crisis Center)
  • The best possible contact for starting a group will vary by school. In some cases contact with a teacher or coach who wants to sponsor the group is a good place to start. Sometimes a counselor or administrator is better. The initial contact may be someone at central office - perhaps student services, partners in education, etc.
  • You may need to build several supportive contacts within the school to ensure success.
  • Many schools have Communities in Schools (CIS) professionals who work with outside agencies that provide proctored services to students at the campus. You may check to see if your local campus has CIS, and contact the CIS professional to see if they would be willing to assist you either through their program, or simply by getting you in touch with a supportive administrator.

Remember:

  • Schools are not the enemy; support, don't demand. Teachers and counselors are working toward the same goal we are
  • Be flexible; scheduled times may change and other little problems will arise while building this group (Bobette Doerrie- Panhandle Crisis Center)
  • Most schools require background checks for anyone who will work with their students, so offer to sign any paperwork necessary.
  • Be patient. It's going to take time and you have to BE FLEXIBLE with all the little problems that arise while building this group.

Possible Pitfall: Take the advice of someone who has worked as a school administrator as well as for an outside agency.

"The number one mistake that outside agencies make when trying to connect with schools is not taking time to understand the needs of the school - or how the school functions, but they assume they know when they don't." WHEN IN DOUBT...ASK!