Hudson, Ohio

The Hudson community recognized that their youth were making questionable decisions in the mid 1990's. A local nonprofit organization was formed with the help of the local school district and concerned community members. The charge of the organization, called Community First, was to target drugs, alcohol, dropout rates and risky decision making on the part of the community's youth population. Community First pulled all entities in the community together to focus on the wellness of youth.

Since Community First was launched, surveying shows that dropout rates and secondary education opportunities continue to improve – that 67 percent of their high school students report that "their life has a purpose" and 75 percent are optimistic about their personal future.

Community First brings together city government, law enforcement, the school district, private schools, parent organizations, business, volunteers and nonprofit agencies to make youth Hudson’s number one priority. This nonprofit was created in the 1990s and works to promote the 40 Developmental Assets throughout the community. The Youth Champion Network, a collaborative effort of more than 200 concerned citizens and local businesses, advocates publicly for youth issues throughout the community and helps hold schools and government accountable for taking positive action to help youth. A local Wellness Committee focuses on ways the schools and local organizations can partner together to improve overall health and wellness for Hudson’s young people.

Community First has a 50-member youth board who provide counsel on all programming. It partners with several other community organizations to develop education, training and programming for Hudson’s youth. The Hudson City School District Board of Education recently added another student-focused component to enable a high school student to attend board meetings and offer input into policy, budgeting and programming decisions impacting students. The school district partners with Akron Children's Hospital, the Coalition for Children's Mental Health and several other area resources to provide wrap -around services for our youth. The district also secured a grant in partnership with The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation to provide quality professional development for the entire staff related to children's mental health issues and at -risk students.

Another community program to encourage adults to be intentional in their relationships with youth is the “Take a Second, Make a Difference” program. Through this effort, adults are reminded that every interaction they have with youth can make a difference in that child's life. The youth and adults in the community then nominate adults making a difference to youth; these adults are recognized in the local paper as positive examples for others.

One of the most significant solutions has been the creation and successful implementation of a Service-Learning course at Hudson High School. Service Learning is a unique course that combines the disciplines of Social Studies and English with an application in service to the community. It is through the volunteer work that students receive a "hands on" experience of what the academic component has been focusing on through in-depth research projects and real world experience. The volunteer site experience also gives students the rare opportunity to develop relationships with diverse professionals who further enhance their personal and education development. The course enables students to realize the need for volunteers locally, in neighboring communities and at a state and national level.