Alexandria Youth to be Supported with Master Plan
Margaret Summers | 11/13/2013, 3 p.m.
Approximately 13 people, representing Alexandria, Va., government agencies and nonprofit groups working with children and families, convened at the Minnie Howard Campus of T.C. Williams High School on West Braddock Road. The purpose of the Saturday, Nov. 9 meeting was to hear public review and comment about a draft City of Alexandria Children and Youth Master Plan.
It was the second of three community forums scheduled this month before the plan is finalized and presented to the city’s school board and the Alexandria City Council next year for approval and implementation. The plan encompasses the city council’s vision and strategic objectives for Alexandria’s children, youth and families.
“Alexandria lacked a well-coordinated blueprint for government agencies and nonprofit organizations to work together collaboratively for children and young people,” explained Ron Frazier, 59, director of the city’s Office of Youth Services, and a member of the Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission. “The Youth Master Plan gives us a baseline to tell us where we are, and a way to determine where [services for children] are weakest and strongest.”
In 2012, the city council established the 29-member Commission, with support from the Alexandria City Public Schools, to design a plan built on the belief that all children and youth, from birth to 21, must be, among other things, physically safe and healthy; academically and vocationally successful; and emotionally secure, hopeful and resilient.
The Commission chose The Forum for Youth Investment, a District-based nonprofit in Northwest that helps prepare young people for college, work and life by age 21, to guide the planning process. It also appointed a 30-member Design Team, comprised of administrative and community leaders with child and youth sector expertise.
The Forum and the Commission’s Design Team compiled data and research for The Alexandria Children and Youth Well-Being Profile, the plan’s companion document which describes the current condition of the city’s young people.
The Commission held Youth Master Plan meetings earlier this year attended by more than 300 adults and youth. An additional nine meetings with 200 middle and high school students solicited their input.
“Alexandria has long invested its resources into children, youth and families. The city’s children and youth are not in trouble, and that isn’t why we created the Youth Master Plan,” said Frazier. But he indicated there are areas that could be improved, among them, education.
The Alexandria Children and Youth Well-Being Profile notes the city’s median income remained at around $50,000 annually, even during recent years of the nation’s economic downturn. However, there was a six-point increase in the percentage of Alexandria’s economically disadvantaged public school students between school years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. In Fiscal Year 2013, 56 percent of the city’s public school students were eligible for free or reduced lunch. Additionally, the Profile says almost one-third of public school students’ families speak a language other than English in the home.
“Alexandria is very diverse. We have to make sure that [economically disadvantaged] young people, and those for whom English is a second language, are receiving the resources they need to be successful in school,” said Frazier.