Summit High School principal Drew Adkins and Summit Middle School principal Joel Rivera had good news to report at the Summit school district Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.
The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey conducted for the 2012-13 school year demonstrated successful trends among middle school and high school students in the areas of healthy living choices and physical, emotional and behavioral health.
The survey is administered at both state and local levels. It is not required on the local level, however many school districts utilize the survey in order to gather statistics and information about health and behavior issues affecting their students. Data from the program can help a school pinpoint problem areas and improve its environment, monitor how the health behaviors of the students change over time and bring funding to the school in the form of grants.
More than 600 students, between grades 7 and 12, took the survey in Summit County.
"We do value the survey," Adkins said, explaining that in the past the survey results had helped form plans and programs to improve students' health-related decisions and the environment of the school.
The high school, for example, offers the Reconnecting Youth program, taught by Robin Albert, director of Youth and Family Services for Summit County.
"They're really directed at giving life skills to kids who are struggling with academics or maybe with home issues or drugs or alcohol," Albert said. "It's mostly to keep kids attending school, so you really pull them in, and then you teach them to make healthier decisions."
The survey asks students about their experience with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. In the Reconnecting Youth class, Albert worked with the students in researching various drugs, helping them understand the effect of the substances and ways to make healthy decisions regarding them.
Self-esteem and confidence are also key points of focus, Albert said.
"You take the kids where they are at and you build on their strengths. Then you bring in the challenges that they're facing and how can we improve strengths."
Adkins also described further efforts at the high school to improve the atmosphere of the school, particularly focused on increasing relationships between students and teachers. Students are constantly being recognized for various positive behaviors, anything from doing well on a test or increasing a grade level to helping out a classmate. Teachers will forward emails to other staff members, mentioning students who have done a good job and encouraging their colleagues to recognize the student for it when they see them next.
"I really think that the culture, through the work of the staff, has changed at Summit High School, in that it is a culture of positivity and success," Adkins said, adding that "kids are getting high fives in the hallway."
One of the successes pinpointed by the recent survey is the decrease in depression among students. Reports of depression dropped from 27 percent in the previous year's survey to 20 percent this year. Reports of suicidal thoughts dropped from 17 percent to 13 percent.
"The biggest highlight, I think, just shows how the school district and the community rallied around the depression rates, and we really made a big hit on that in two years," Albert said. "I think that's a big jump, and it's something we can be proud of as a community and how we rallied around that issue."
Overall, Adkins, Rivera and Albert agreed that the results of this year's survey were highly positive.
"There were probably only four areas that I highlighted where we weren't better than state averages, which again is a huge success," Adkins told the board of education.
By further studying the results of the survey, Adkins, Rivera and their staffs can further pinpoint the most important issues that their students need addressed and formulate programs around those needs.
"We're moving in the right direction," said Summit School District superintendent Heidi Pace.