Mentally healthy child

The high school in your community offers counseling to struggling students but has little connection with the local mental health providers . . . Your sprawling town offers a variety of social services, but they are not coordinated in any way, making it hard for leaders to share resources and knowledge that can help them accomplish common goals . . . Your new anti-bullying team needs buy-in from local school administrators and community members to help its efforts take root . . .

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? These are the kinds of challenges that communities often uncover when they decide to make improvements to help children, youth, and families thrive.

In this post we offer a brief introduction to 3 Bold Steps, a new suite of interactive tools and resources designed to help communities overcome real-world challenges. You’ll hear from educators and other providers who have adapted three basic elements—Partner-Plan-Act—to successfully take their youth services to the next level.

“I think it’s important to work with community audiences because every one of these audiences has access to different people and resources that you can engage. It not only benefits you now, but also helps you to sustain programming long after funding is gone.”

—Sherrie Williams, Vicksburg Warren School District’s Project SYNC

History of 3 Bold Steps

For 11 years, EDC’s National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention has supported nearly 300 communities that were awarded Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) grants. Through this initiative, communities have created and strengthened alliances with diverse organizations, groups, and individuals. Together, these new partners create a shared vision and pool their resources to offer enhanced, comprehensive services to children and youth. Even better, these partnerships have found ways to keep their successful programs going for the long term even after their grant funding has run out.

With the creation of the new 3 Bold Steps website, the National Center has gathered the best practices from the SS/HS Initiative and made them available to all.

A full collection of interactive e-learning tools and resources will help guide you through the Partner-Plan-Act process. Four action plans are also provided, focusing on some of the most common areas of need: bullying, substance abuse, student mental health, and early childhood social emotional learning. The site is organized to help you build a successful and sustainable partnership in your own community, step by step.

Over the years, dozens of communities have used the 3 Bold Steps to make change, and their voices are featured throughout the new site. To introduce you to the 3 Bold Steps, we’ve highlighted one of these “real stories” for each step to show how it might look in action. You’ll also read about some of the interactive activities designed to support your partnership at each stage of the process. 

Step 1: Partner

In Vail, Arizona, a tiny committee of school officials and service providers met regularly to share information about students’ needs in their large, unincorporated rural town. When the members decided to “beef up” this group and make it a stronger partnership, their first task was to identify important voices from across the community—including parents, teachers, law enforcement officers, business owners, faith-based leaders, and many others. More than 125 participants gathered for a high-energy meeting to name three priorities for the community’s youth, and a diverse group of 20 was formed to carry the work forward. Today, Vail C.A.R.E.S. is completely led and governed by community members who continue to work together to better the lives of children, youth, and families in Vail.

How can your school, district, or community partner with others to “work smarter”? To build a partnership that can successfully address the big issues facing youth and families, start with a core group from sectors that are directly involved. The “Think Broadly” activity can help you move beyond the “usual suspects” to identify key players whose priorities align with yours. You may also find that some partners share your concerns but look at or approach them in a new and different way.

Step 2: Plan

In Todd County School District in South Dakota, student surveys revealed high rates of bullying behavior. Located on the Rosebud Sioux reservation, the community of Todd County holds strong Lakota values—both in school and out. Partners agreed that the seven Lakota Life Values, which help maintain balance in all areas of life, needed to be at the core of the bullying prevention work they were planning to ensure that the work was meaningful to Tribal community members. Throughout the process, the school consulted with Tribal leaders, which helped get more members of the community involved in the partners’ efforts.

After researching a number of anti-bullying approaches and programs, Todd County chose one that emphasizes community involvement, which allowed the team to connect major components of the program to the Lakota Life Values.

Once your partnership has a strong vision for addressing the big issues at hand, how can you bring it to reality? With the interactive “Find Out What’s Happening” tool, you can draw on the contacts and experience of your team to become fully informed about the context of your work together. The 3 Bold Steps site offers a number of tools to help partnerships craft practical plans to achieve their goals. There are many good programs and interventions available, and your partnership will want to choose those that can work well in your own unique community. 

Step 3: Act

The Learning Center of Ellis County in Hays, Kansas, wanted to better address the many needs of its students. One step the Center took was to become a licensed virtual classroom, allowing students from all over Kansas to earn credits online. This helps support students who lack transportation, who have young children, or who work full-time. The Center also provides childcare, summer classes, ESL courses, laptops, and classes in technology. These changes have boosted enrollment, which in turn has qualified the Center for robust funding from the state education department.

In this final step, Act, the rubber meets the road. With solid, up-to-date information about the needs in your community gathered during the partnering and planning steps, you can begin to meet those needs with carefully tailored programming. Specifically, the interactive “Create a Legacy” tool focuses on key aspects of long-term integration, to help your new programs become the status quo—and an integral part of your community.

In Conclusion

Each community has the leadership and vision within it that can transform real challenges into opportunities for lasting improvement. With the 3 Bold Steps, you can partner with others who share your passion to help your community’s children and youth reach their full potential.

Your Turn

We hope you find the 3 Bold Steps a valuable resource in making the changes you envision in your community. We’d love to hear your thoughts about this new tool and how you plan to use it in your community.*

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