Express News Staff
INDIAN LAKE – “The kids don’t see a future here,” Mental Health Services Director Robert Kleppang told the Hamilton County Workforce Investment Board last week.
Kleppang was not just voicing an opinion, but based his comments on a just-published Youth Development Survey administered in Hamilton County school districts this past spring. The Hamilton County Youth Board survey was given to students in grades 6-12, with over 200 participating and yielding 168 valid surveys.
Speaking Tuesday, Oct. 8, in the One-Stop Career Center next to the Department of Social Services office here, Kleppang continued, “A higher than average number of youth in grades 6-12, when compared to a national average, hold a perception that there are few opportunities for them in terms of present pro-social activities and future vocational choices.
“This perception does not entirely match well with reality, and efforts should be made to address and change -- as possible -- perceptions among both youth and adults throughout the county to a more positive one, as research has shown more positive perceptions can impact the choices youth make, often for the better.
“This is a complicated issue, and prevention educators and the Youth Board will be proceeding, utilizing evidenced-based strategies, to promote greater and more positive community attachments.”
Kleppang also reported on other results from the survey.
The good news is only 8.4 percent of the students admitted to smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days. The bad news is 30.5 percent admitted to having consumed an alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days.
Use of marijuana was admitted by 6.1 percent, and less than 2 percent admitted using prescription painkillers and tranquilizers.
Substance abuse increases as grade level increases, Kleppang said. For example, in grades 11 and 12, consumption of alcohol increases to 49 percent.
When asked, “How often did you try to do your best work in school?” 46.7 percent responded, “almost always,” 27.5 percent replied, “often,” 20.4 percent answered, “sometimes” and 5.4 percent said, “seldom.” No one answered “never.”
Many students feel under appreciated when they try their best. Only 13.4 percent feel their teachers recognize their efforts with praise all the time; 45.7 percent say they receive praise most of the time. But 29.9 percent responded they seldom are praised for their efforts and 11 percent emphasized they get next to zero recognition for their efforts.
Asked if they like going to school, only 7.3 percent replied “almost always,” 21.2 percent said they like it “often,” 41.8 percent voted for “sometimes,” 18.2 percent “seldom” like school and 11.5 percent said they “never” like school.
A NEW ALLY
The stars might be aligning for students and both the local WIBs because the regional North Country WIB has appointed a new executive director.
Hamilton County WIB Chairman Bill Murphy introduced Dr. Wanda R. McQueen as the new executive director.
McQueen has served as a K-12 school administrator, a literacy teacher, a college learning center director, an early childhood development learning program specialist, a disability services coordinator and a federal project director.
She has presented on the federal and local levels, conducted national and regional training and workshops for professionals, and provided student programs through community events, school assemblies and classroom presentations.
As the project director of the Safe Schools / Healthy Students federal initiative, McQueen worked with school districts in New York to develop school climate initiatives, improve school safety procedures, establish school-based mental health services, promote early childhood education and development and incorporate data collection systems.
McQueen said she wants the kids to know what jobs are available locally and what skills they need to get good jobs.
On the job front, McQueen said economic development must be specific when seeking to create and attract jobs to the area. One area in which she sees a potential for job growth is renewable energy -- wind, solar and biomass. She also believes teleworking jobs hold much promise to attract new residents as well as retaining current residents.
McQueen was busy taking notes while WIB members outlined for her the uniqueness of Hamilton County and the problems it faces.
Hamilton County is one of only a very few counties east of the Mississippi designated by the federal government as a ‘Frontier County.’ It has no public transportation, is divided into five different BOCES districts and has no college or hospital of any sort.
The unemployment rate is low in the summer but skyrockets to into double digits and higher during the winter, even in the best of economic times.
The new One-Stop Career Center at the DSS office in Indian Lake, where job seekers can search for employment and access training and where employers can find new employees, is now fully equipped with a computer, copier and other tools that can be used to prepare for a search for work.
Services include resume development, interview techniques, training workshops, computer training, networking skills training, Internet access for job searching, on-the-job training and more.
To learn more stop in at DSS at 139 White Birch Lane, Indian Lake, or call (518) 648-6131.
Closely tied to what is taking place at the One-Stop Career Center is the online Adirondack Teleworks at www.adirondackteleworks.com/.
The WIB will next meet Tuesday, Dec. 10, starting at 9:30 p.m. in Lake Pleasant.