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Fairfield Youth Headed in ‘Positive Direction’

RYASAP's 2012 survey reveals decrease in underage drinking, high scores in family support, motivation and other categories.

Are Fairfield’s middle and high school students better citizens than they were four years ago? The answer is a resounding “yes,” according to a survey conducted in January by Bridgeport-based RYASAP (Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership).

“Things are definitely going in a positive direction for Fairfield kids,” said Robert Francis, the non-profit’s executive director, who presented RYASAP’s "2012 Profile in Youth in Greater Bridgeport" to the Fairfield Board of Education at last Tuesday night's meeting.

The survey encompassed 3,453 students in grades seven through 12 from five area communities: Fairfield, Bridgeport, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull. The Fairfield segment included 844 students (52 percent female, 48 percent male) from the town’s two public high schools and three middle schools, Francis noted.

The major change across four years was the reduction in underage drinking. “It went down 10 whole (percentage) points,” Francis said.

In the category Past 30-Day Use, only 28.8 percent of the surveyed Fairfield students said they drank alcohol during that period. Even more impressive was the number who used tobacco in that same 30-day period – just 5 percent. But 15.3 percent said they experimented with marijuana.

In Perception of Risk, a whopping 95 percent cited tobacco, 77 percent felt marijuana was risky, and 69 percent said alcohol could be harmful.

Of the Fairfield students surveyed, 80 percent reported high levels of love and support from their family, 79 percent said they were motivated to do well in school, 51 percent reported they were able to resist negative peer pressure, 60 percent said they had high self-esteem, and 81 percent reported they were optimistic about their future.

However, only 30 percent said they had positive family role models.

The key to success, according to Francis, who is in his 20th year as RYASAP’s leader, are 40 developmental assets. These assets constitute a research-based framework that identifies basic building blocks of human development.

"The results are compelling. Assets are up across the board. The more assets kids have, the better,” he said.

Youth with high asset levels are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors – such as violence, sexual activity, drug use and suicide – and more likely to engage in thriving behaviors. The latter includes helping others, doing well in school and taking on leadership roles.

Among the 844 Fairfield students surveyed, 13 percent reported 31-40 assets, 43 percent displayed 21-30 assets, 36 percent had 11-20 assets and 8 percent reported 0-10.

Francis pointed out that females scored higher than males in all but four developmental asset categories. Males had higher self-esteem, 65 percent to 55 percent; a stronger sense of purpose, 75-69; were more apt to overcome adversity, 72-65; and felt safer at home and school, and in the neighborhood, 66-52.

The power of assets, he said, promotes eight specific indicators of thriving youth:

  • Experience school success
  • Exhibit leadership
  • Help others informally
  • Resist danger
  • Value diversity
  • Control impulsive behavior
  • Overcome adversity
  • Maintain good personal health

Francis believes it unwise to compare the Fairfield results with those in neighboring cities and towns, some of which may have fewer resources. “Fairfield is unique, a high-achieving community,” he said.

RYASAP, founded in 1985, offers programs in youth and young adult leadership development, health promotion, juvenile justice reform, teen dating, urban education reform and closing the achievement gap, and gambling and substance abuse education. For more information, visit
the website, www.ryasap.org or call (203) 579-2727.

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