Kids Connection

by Liz Sielatycki

Family & Youth Initiatives

It seems that self-fulfilling prophecies are often framed toward negative outcomes, but I am a firm believer that they can work just as well for the positive.

Have you ever received a compliment from someone related to something in which you feel inadequate? When that has happened to me, it has helped me shift my own internal narrative to start choosing to believe that perhaps I am capable of whatever that thing may be, since someone took the time to acknowledge me for it. Because my belief in that characteristic has shifted toward the positive, my behavior starts to follow.

The Social Development Strategy, developed by a localized systems-change model called Communities That Care, states that “providing young people with opportunities, skills and recognition strengthens bonding with family, school and community. Strong bonds motivate young people to adopt healthy standards for behavior.” Years of research has proven this to be an effective model for promoting healthy youth development.

Although not always characterized as such, there are a multitude of organizations and community members in Chaffee County who promote the Social Development Strategy in their daily work and lives. An innovative effort that promotes this model is the “Positive Contact” initiative by the Buena Vista Police Department and “Positive Ticketing” by the Salida Police Department.

When a young person is “caught being good” by an officer (doing a good deed or going above and beyond), they could be handed a “Positive Contact” slip for a free drink or ice cream at Brown Dog Coffee in respective BV and Salida locations.

Officers Lee and DiGirolamo in BV and Chief Johnson in Salida have been key forces behind making these efforts happen in their departments.

Stories have been shared about how excited students have been when cashing in their slip for a free treat, though at the end of the day it’s not just about the reward itself. It’s about the opportunities being made available for strengthened relationships with youth in unexpected ways and inspiring future positive behaviors.

The impact may seem small in theory, but it truly has the potential for great change. Thank you to all our community members promoting the Social Development Strategy, whether they know it or not.

Liz Sielatycki is Communities That Care facilitator at Chaffee County Family & Youth Initiatives.