Mary Ann Moran, a representative of the Arlington Partnership for Children Youth and Families, read the results of a survey her office prepared on Arlington's youth to a crowd of more than 50 potential volunteers.
Although the survey details many aspects of Arlington's success in reaching out to young people, it also reveals a community in need of volunteers and mentors.
Moran said the rate of teen pregnancy is down in the county and 72 percent of Arlington's 2-year-olds are immunized before they reach kindergarten. But a closer look at the survey shows some problems.
"When you look a little deeper at the data, in some neighborhoods 81 percent of children are immunized and in others only 41 percent are immunized," Moran said.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE, Moran said, present further challenges for the community. According to the survey, 30 percent of Arlington high school seniors report being drunk in the past two weeks and 21 percent of eighth graders said they'd had a drink in the last month.
On the county's teen suicide rate, Moran said, 20 to 30 percent of sixth to eighth graders in Arlington report having thought seriously about suicide.
Moran's statistics also outlined a distinct achievement gap between certain students in Arlington schools.
"Relative to white or Asian students, a far lower proportion of black and Hispanics students take advanced courses and a higher proportion of those kids are suspended," she said.
Moran said despite the county's high-performing schools and social outreach programs, more adult involvement is needed to help Arlington's children succeed.
"Research is saying that as essential as all these things are, it is not enough," she said. "If we want our children to thrive, to really, really grow to their potential, then all of us as adults need to be involved with children. Not just families, not just teachers but all of us."
IT ONLY TAKES a little time to touch a young person's life, said Christian Dorsey, executive director of the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corporation, a group that promotes fair housing practices and other community initiatives.
"There's no magic formula you have to learn, no special training you have to undergo to be effective," Dorsey said. "What you have to do is just care and be around....Often times, we psyche ourselves out to think we can't make a difference because we don't have the time in our lives to make a huge impact or we don't have the resources — but it doesn't take much. It takes genuine, sincere caring. That is something each of us has the ability to do."