Students Address Strengths; Challenges In Los Alamos

Courtney FiztGerald instructs with Wyatt Saeger, Jun Kim and Ruby Selvage during Saturday’s RAPS retreat. Courtesy/LAPS

LAPS News:

Eight Los Alamos High School students participated last Saturday in RAPS (Risk and Resiliency Assessment Project for Students), a training designed to develop leadership, teamwork and advocacy skills, and empower youth to make a difference in their community.

RAPS teaches youth to critically evaluate and understand data from the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey (YRRS), acknowledging the strengths and protective factors that are present in the community, and exploring root causes for risk-taking behaviors. Courtney FitzGerald, an Associate Scientist with UNM’s Prevention Research Center, facilitated the day long retreat.

“I am so pleased that Los Alamos students will be leading a student analysis of the 2015 YRRS data from Los Alamos County as part of the RAPS project this year,” said Courtney FitzGerald, MSSW, LMSW. “The district had an outstanding survey response rate, so they will be working with very high-quality data.”

The YRRS is a tool used to assess the health risk behaviors and the resiliency factors of middle and high school students. It is administered in the public schools to grades 6-8 and grades 9-12 every other year. The most recent survey of Los Alamos students was completed in the fall of 2015 and captured a strong response rate of 87 percent for LAMS and 81 percent for LAHS. The RAPS model trains student learners to guide their peers through a group analysis of their school’s YRRS data, prioritize  the strengths and issues they would like to address, and communicate those priorities back to the community through dialogue and planned actions.

The LAHS RAPS leadership team will meet and continue to discuss the next steps for the project, including recruiting additional students and leading them through the group analysis process. The team will also continue to work with the Positive Youth Development framework of youth empowerment which underlies the RAPS model; emphasizing on highlighting the positives, and not just the risks, associated with youth behaviors. FitzGerald introduced the team to this concept during the retreat. The final goal will be creation of an Executive Summary detailing the student priorities about strengths, concerns and possible solutions and action items. This information will then be presented back to the community.

“We are fortunate to have strong support and interest from our community partners like the Community Health Council and The Family YMCA’s Teen Center. JJAB sponsored the training costs and Del Norte Credit Union supported the retreat with healthy food from the Los Alamos Cooperative Market. We couldn’t make this happen without their support,” said Kristine Coblentz, director of LAPS’s Healthy Schools Initiative.