Teaching Positive Attitudes

Teaching Positive Attitudes

Kids at Hope initiative teaches community to promote positive stereotypes among children.

Community members who have daily interactions with Herndon's youth attended an orientation at the Herndon Police station to learn how to make Herndon a "Hope Square Community" earlier this month.

Led by Rick Miller, founder of Kids at Hope — a national initiative designed to prove that all children can succeed, no exceptions — participants discussed ways they could positively influence Herndon's children.

Approximately 30 people attended the first of three sessions held Nov. 10. The first orientation, which was full, included Herndon Parks and Recreation employees and director Art Anselene, Mayor Michael O'Reilly, Vecinos Unidos/Neighbors United employees and volunteers and other community leaders.

During the two-hour meeting, Miller explained how and why the national initiative was created and what community leaders could do to promote success in children. This included looking at the way children are addressed, either as "at-risk youth" or as "kids at hope." By using the latter definition, children are not predetermined to fail because of negative stereotypes, said Miller.

"As soon as you identify a child 'at risk' you start treating them like a child at risk," said the Arizona State University professor. "If you want me to act like a child at hope, then start treating me like a child at hope."

Herndon is one of three other communities across the country partaking in this pilot program that will offer training and technical assistance through a grant from Kids at Hope and the National Recreation Foundation.

Kids at Hope works with schools, youth groups, police, fire and recreation departments in all 50 states in order to reverse the stigma, stereotype and self-fulfilling prophecy associated with the abuse of the expression "youth at risk," according to the group's official Web site.

Training courses will begin in 2006 to help Herndon's community become a Hope Square Community — or a place where youth organizations agree to share a common belief system and resources to collectively benefit area youth.

"The approach that Hope Square advocates, particularly Rick Miller, is to be very positive influences on our kids and that makes a lot of sense," said O'Reilly. "While we do a lot of that already, it's good to hear another perspective of ways to do that."