Barbara Bridgwater

Barbara Bridgwater, Youth Count

As we move into this new year, it’s as important as ever, and given the many challenges in our world — perhaps more important than ever, that we ensure that our youth experience adults who value them, keep them safe, provide them with educational, artistic, altruistic opportunities to learn and grow.

We need to tell them, as well as show them by our actions, how to positively interact with other people, to value differences and to resolve conflict. We want them to experience strong support from their families and their communities. We want them to be resilient and successful in life.

When going about my everyday activities in the community, it is so heartening to witness individuals in the midst of their everyday life, spontaneously demonstrating positive attitudes and interactions with our children and teens.

Cindy Henderson took four of her grandchildren to ring the bell for Salvation Army to encourage donations that provide help for children and families in need.

A young manager at Taco Bell at Lafollette Center in Floyds Knobs was a human whirlwind in the midst of a hectic rush period, managing multiple actions simultaneously when he realized a new teen cashier was having difficulty with an order. With a smile and a friendly voice the manager walked over to the register and asked, “Hey, how’s it going? Can I help?” Obviously reassured by the manager, the cashier straightened his shoulders and responded that he was good. As the manager turned to walk back into whirlwind status, he encouraged the cashier to “Call me if you need anything.” What leadership and reassurance!

Incredible Teens! There are many, whether they volunteer for Floyd County Voice to educate about the dangers of nicotine and tobacco products or for Miles for Merry Miracles teens who work to support the Angel Tree program, or for FCHS Environment Club to help care for our earth! What incredible energy, creativity and passion they bring to their efforts!

Laura Fleming Balmer and the tireless staff at Clark County Youth Shelter provide multiple programs to ensure that children and teens are safe, including coordinating the local Safe Place Program – outreach and prevention program for young people in need of immediate help and safety; Options to Anger – an opportunity to develop better choices in anger management and communication skills for ages 10-19; Both emergency and long-term residential services … and much more.

Teresa Thompson, Family & Children’s Place Associate Program Director, coordinates the after-school program at Hazelwood, providing positive after school programs in which they empower teens by having them serve on a committee of youth and adults to determine youth projects for the year.

Jamey Aebersold, world renowned jazz saxophonist from New Albany, is also known by decades of NAFC elementary students who have learned about the benefits of music, especially jazz, coupled with his advocacy efforts educating youth and adults about the dangers of tobacco/nicotine … all in an effort to enhance their lives through the Arts and to live healthy lifestyles by avoiding tobacco products.

Gina Anderson, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator at Floyd Purdue Extension, organizes various community activities in which children and their family members can participate in activities for valuing, sustaining, and enhancing our planet. One example is Pollinator Day with lots of fun activities for youth and families to learn about bees, honey, flowering plants, seeds and more, plus provides them the opportunity to continue learning together after the event.

The Floyd County Public Library provides many exciting opportunities for children and teens. The Book Garden offers family learning moments by using books such as “Peter Rabbit,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Color Purple,” Gina Anderson (see above) and volunteers plant individual Book Gardens depicting flowers and plants that capture the spirit of each book. Children can visit the gardens throughout the growing season. The Library recognizes that teens are juggling school, family and social obligations, the Library offers Teen Scene where teens are encouraged to take ownership and choose how to use your time.

Tips: Remember that youth support begins at home. How do you talk with your kids? Do you yell? Parents of some children yell at them before they go to bed. Will they sleep well? Likely not. Some yell at kids in the morning — first to wake up & then to hurry, etc. A good way to begin the day? I think not. You set the tone in your home; speak with love and encouragement. Speak in the way you wish to be spoken to. Of course we don’t always have a good day or speak softly; it won’t always happen with your children, but it can happen the majority of the time. Set expectations for your home and for behaviors. Articulate the consequences for not following expectations. Ensure that both expectations and consequences are appropriate to age and behavior. Be certain that you enforce the boundaries, otherwise they are meaningless. Most of all, show love and respect to your child; it will come back to you.

Thank you to the many individuals and organizations who work to ensure our Southern Indiana communities provide every opportunity for our young people to grow up strong and resilient!

Visit the Youth Count Facebook page at for tips and encouragement on demonstrating positive attitudes and behaviors. For more information about the 40 Development Assets, building developmental relationships or for handouts appropriate for home, work, school or church (a Scripture version is available), email me at

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