Capturing the Voices Youth Report

Recent Survey Indicates Young People

Desire Meaningful Roles in Their Community

A recent survey highlights feelings about present and future in Pottawattamie County

A recent 2011 survey comprised of 2,400 participants from ages 11 to 24 in Pottawattamie County gives local attitudes, opinions and needs of area youth. Those surveyed were asked what their favorite part of the community is, where it needs to improve, what the future holds and what their attitude of the future is.

The county-wide survey, funded by the Iowa West Foundation, conducted with assistance from Promise Partners, Pottawattamie County’s Alliance for Youth and the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, was designed to capture the area’s voices and let their opinions be heard.

Jerry Mathiasen, Interim President & CEO of the Iowa West Foundation, explained that the youth survey is a “key follow-up” to a Pottawattamie County Community needs assessment done in 2007. Iowa West funded both assessments. “The Foundation believed it was important for local communities to hear the voices of youth,” Mathiasen said. “The youth assessment supplements the community survey because those were household calls and this one was a grassroots outreach to our youth,” he added.

The community report reflected more than anything else young people want to be heard and taken seriously. They want to be engaged and involved in their community. They want meaningful leadership roles alongside adults in an effort to make their community more desirable.

Some of the highlights of the comprehensive survey include:

Community Strengths: Small, close-knit, and yet close to the city, midwest friendliness and beautiful parks and open nature space.

Community Weaknesses and Concerns: Drug and alcohol abuse among adults and youth, bullies and crime, lack of entertainment, lack of employment opportunities and appearance of the community.

With a number of young people accessing area programs, services, clubs and facilities, young people gage these at average or below average.  Youth were often cited saying there is a lack of youth input on service provision and delivery.

Participants in the survey were also asked how they spend their time. The highest rankings went to social networking Web sites, cell phones, watching television and streaming radio and video.

The future: Of the 2,400 surveyed, 71% said they intend to go to college or a technical school after graduating high school. 35% say they plan on staying in the area after high school, while 38% say they plan on leaving.

When asked what is important to them in creating an ideal community, participants ranked job opportunities, housing, college access programs, additional college and universities and more recreational activities at the top.

Respondents suggest youth planning events in the community, input in local government, city planning, school issues, as well as time to speak with local leaders on an equal playing ground.

Jessica Simons, Youth Engagement Coordinator for Promise Partners, explained the philosophy of “nothing about us, without us”. Young people have valuable ideas and input and want more opportunities to be involved in their community – especially when it comes to programs, services, and decisions that impact them directly.

For more information, view the report here: Capturing the Voices Youth Report.