Siouxland Magazine’s Commitment to Our Youth – A Year of Focus and Collaboration

Starting conversations is at the heart of our magazine – focusing on issues that matter to our readers and that impact our community. 

Without question, our children, with every day that passes, are being exposed to more and more adult problems with only adolescent capacities to process and handle them. 

In this issue, you will hear from several community partners on why they believe our focus for the coming year must be on our children. Siouxland Magazine is committed to giving them a platform to share information and resources with our readers, as well as facilitating discussion that will lead to a live event.

It is our desire to get the conversation rolling, to hold space for ideas to manifest, to encourage full participation, and facilitate in this process that moves us forward.

We invite everyone to take a seat at the table and share their unique perspective. We are diving into difficult conversations, approaching seemingly unanswerable questions, with a commitment to embrace possibilities. We are allowing things to unfold by leaning into the conversation with an insatiable curiosity and trusting that together we can make a difference together. 

Please let us know if you are interested in joining us at the table or if you have information that is relevant. If you haven’t already, like us on Facebook, so that you’ll be the first to hear when we announce the date of our live forum. 

Jennifer Jackson, Executive Director at Heartland Counseling Services, Inc.

Our children are really struggling right now. I see this firsthand every day. Parents, teachers, school administrators, and my friends are reaching out in desperation on how to help them. This is real; this is raw. Last Saturday, my friend asked me to speak at her son’s funeral. He was only 19 years old, and he killed himself. We need to speak up, we need to have the uncomfortable talks, we need each other. This is why we need to focus on our children.

Kristie M. Arlt, Executive Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland

Now more than ever, children need our time, attention, and support. A national health crisis isn’t receiving enough attention – Mental health issues, specifically youth suicide. Siouxland is not immune to the rising statistics. Rates of youth suicide, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression have increased dramatically among adolescents in the past two years. Children are experiencing isolation and loneliness at alarming rates. Now is the time to intervene. Now is the time to give our love, time, and resources to children who are struggling in our community. 

How can you make a difference? Give back. Whether it’s by giving your time, talent or treasure, every thoughtful action matters. Siouxland is incredibly fortunate to have not-for-profit organizations that are on the frontline helping at-risk children improve their lives for the better, forever. Get to know these organizations. Support them financially, volunteer, train as a youth mentor, serve on their boards, simply reach out and ask “how can I help”. It opens a world of possibilities. 

Katie Towler, Principal at Sioux City Community School District & Sioux City Career Academy

Every day I have the privilege of working with high school children. Some days they are young adults who are independent and goal-driven. Other days, they forget their computer, lose their lunch money, and can’t remember what class they have next. Kids are eager to grow but along the way they need clear boundaries, high yet realistic expectations, and support.

I am consistently amazed by what our kids can do, especially when they are inspired. Imagine what our future could look like if we intentionally focused on kids: what they need, who they are, what inspires them, what their dreams and aspirations are, for an entire year. When I ask kids what makes them feel good about their school the number one response is that they feel cared for and supported. They are seen, they are heard, and we have actively listened to what they’ve said. While some of our kids have this type of support, many do not. While it is critical that we focus on our kids, we need to take it a step further and commit to taking action to ensure every single one of them gets what they need. 

JoAnn Gieselman Director of Growing Community Connections

Growing Community Connections believes that children are our community’s most precious resources. Each child is vital to our community. They bring us smiles and laughter; they often challenge us to have fun and stay young. The inner child in us loves to go to movies or petting zoos with children, and we admittedly have fun even if we adults are “too old for that stuff.” Children have so many possibilities and potential when they are born, and it is exciting for new families to nurture and grow those wonderful talents. It is critical that families and supportive communities ensure that children get the nurturing and stimulation they need to develop basic social and emotional skills with protective factors that help them become strong. These resilient adults can reach their full potential.

Children are crucial to our future. A child who has a strong early foundation, with positive experiences and relationships, will grow into an adult contributing to society. The first five years of a child’s life present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for childhood education and development. During those years, neural connections in the brain are being made more rapidly than any other time. These connections are the foundation upon which all future learning and relationships are built. When we invest in our children, it increases their chances of graduating from high school,  going to college, economic development, and personal income. It decreases special education/remediation, dependence on social welfare, and crime-related costs/incarceration. Children are so critical to our future. Growing Community Connections through a Nebraska Children and Families grant funding, have hired an Early Childhood Community Coordinator, Kathy Moller. She will assist our communities to focus on opportunities, as well as challenges in our communities, that providers and families may experience. Through her work, those challenges may be dealt with and enhance and support early childhood opportunities for all.

Susie Edgar, Executive Director at Her Health Women’s Center

Children are our most precious resource. Unfortunately, when our children are not valued and cared for, when they are not given wise instruction, the chances of them falling off the “cliff of life” into a deep valley of brokenness is great. As our society tunnels itself into isolation through social media, we see more and more casualties of our children. So much time and money is spent helping heal the brokenness of shattered people at the bottom of the steep cliffs of wrong choices and dysfunction. Of course, we are called to love and care for the wounded and hurt. But I also believe that if we can build guardrails at the top of these steep “cliffs of life” to prevent the fall in the first place, we can both stop the wounds from happening and provide strong, whole people to be part of the solution. This is why investing in our children is so vital—providing guardrails through strong families and involved parents, through educating our kids and families in our schools and churches on the dangerous cliffs that could be around the corner. By guiding these precious children in making wise choices that steer them away from danger and toward wholeness and life success is good for them and for all of us. 

This is the reason Her Health Women’s Center is committed to Healthy Relationship and Online Safety Education with our youth – we want to be part of the solution in helping prevent falls and guiding our children toward a bright future.  

Kim Smith, Healthy Relationships Education Manager at Her Health Women’s Center

We are raising a generation of children in the midst of what many experts are calling “the largest social experiment known to man”.  The internet. Social media. Devices. Screens. I cannot imagine my middle school/high school self navigating this online world successfully. The sheer amount of information is overwhelming and exhausting to most adults I know, including myself. Yet, we have tossed devices into our children’s hands with often little to no instruction. We all know our children are faster and better at figuring out how to run all the devices and apps, but do we forget in the midst of this that they are still just children? We are expecting them to understand, filter and process staggering amounts of adult information from questionable sources, and somehow come out intact.  

If we do not begin to activate and equip parents and other trusted adults to help our children process what’s real and what’s not, what’s healthy and what’s not, I can’t fathom what their real lives and relationships will look like in the future. We are already seeing the impact this technology-driven life is having on our children with shorter attention spans, high risk online interactions, and low self-esteem. We can interact with children in the schools and other organizations about online safety and healthy relationships, but if we don’t equip and activate the adults in their lives to reinforce and model healthier behaviors, there will be little change in our children’s lives and online experiences.

Mandy Engel-Cartie, Executive Director at Girls Inc. of Sioux City

COVID-19, economic instability, racial injustice, political strife, social unrest, immigration raids, and increases in hate crimes and discrimination have contributed to anxiety and mental health concerns. The pandemic has also taken a toll on academic progress. Many students who struggled with math, reading, and more prior to 2020 have fallen even further behind and need intensive assistance to regain academic losses. 

If adults are to reinforce the safety net that every child needs and deserves, we must commit our time, attention, and money to:

  • Increasing access to mental health and wellness support for children, particularly those in underserved and underrepresented communities.
  • Combating the persistent stigma surrounding mental health issues and treatment, including educating parents and caregivers.
  • Improving access for girls and other underrepresented groups to meaningful opportunities to pursue career paths that lead to economic independence.
  • Increasing access to education, technology, and equipment that will bridge the digital divide for social and emotional learning, including out-of-school time programs and mentoring for rural or physically isolated youth and urban youth lacking transportation or other resources to participate in OST opportunities.

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