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BeginningJuly 6, be sure to watch for small teams of Alexandria youth, ages 15-18, andtheir adult team leaders who will be visiting businesses, nonprofits, citysites and faith-based organizations in the citys West End this summer. TheseCommunity Youth Mappers, as they are called, will be busy identifying existingresources and opportunities for youth in the West End.

The Mapperswill conduct formal interviews with the managers and leaders of the places theyvisit. They will ask about existing programs and services, as well as explore perceptionsabout youth substance abuse, teen pregnancy and gang activity. They willidentify places to go and things to do in the West End, especially for youngpeople.

Why is thismapping project important for Alexandria? 

Researchconducted by the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria shows thatsome middle and high school youth feel disconnected from the community, and toomany youth use and abuse alcohol, drugs and tobacco. In addition, there is aneed to prevent teen pregnancy and gangs. There also is a widespread perceptionin Alexandria that the citys West End has limited resources, especially foryoung people.

CommunityYouth Mapping has clear benefits for the citys public, private and nonprofitleaders. The project will help determine what resources exist and where theremay be gaps in current services. Mappers will input the research data theycollect into a database that will be accessible to youth, service providers,city and school officials, and policymakers. The database will include types ofservices and opportunities for youth in the West End, ages served, eligibilitycriteria, languages spoken, accessibility and more. The Mappers will alsodevelop a presentation of the highlights of the research along with theirrecommendations. 

In additionto the valuable information this project will provide to city officials andresidents, the 20 youths will build skills in interviewing, data collection andmanagement, team building and communication. They will also become moreknowledgeable about and connected to our community.

CommunityYouth Mapping is a special project of SAPCA and its partners: The Office onWomen and the Alexandria Campaign on Adolescent Pregnancy; Alexandria CommunityServices Board; Alexandria Libraries; Alexandria Police Department; AlexandriaDepartment of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities; Alexandria SheriffsDepartment; Alexandria Youth Council; Community Lodgings; JobLink; NorthernVirginia Urban League; and the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria. TheAcademy for Education Development Center for Youth Development and PolicyResearch is assisting with our project.

Just ashard-copy and Google maps provide direction for our travels, the CommunityYouth Mapping project will help give direction for youth programming andresources in our community. Everyone involved is excited about the wealth ofimportant information this project will produce and we look forward to sharingit with community members when it is completed.

Thewriter is chair of the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria.

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