TWIN FALLS — From flying kites with kids or rocking colorful socks to fostering goodwill on high-five Fridays, the goal of Southern Idaho Youth Succeed is to produce Healthy Outcomes through Positive Experiences, or HOPE.
With a proclamation from Twin Falls City Council that May 16-20 is HOPE week, the group has invited people across the Magic Valley to participate in a series of daily themes throughout their communities.
As a final event on Friday, a celebration will take place alongside a mural being painted this week on the side of a downtown building. The mural’s theme is “Hope lives here” and is intended as both a statement and an invitation.
“That’s what the week is about, is sharing the message of positive experiences and what they can do for our youth and our communities,” said Kyli Gough, chairperson of Southern Idaho Youth Succeed.
The mural celebration will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday outside of Float Magic, at 152 Second Ave. in Twin Falls. The community is invited to join children from the Boys and Girls Club for a chalk activity on the sidewalk outside, expressing their own vision of hope for positive experiences and mental health.
Southern Idaho Youth Succeed is a local branch of the statewide organization Idaho Resilience Project, with the goal of improving community health by fostering resilience in young people. Gough said this week’s events mark the beginning of the group’s public engagement efforts.
“This week is really our chance to kind of kick off into the work we’re doing, and hope to do more throughout the year and forward,” she said. “HOPE week in May has been a great chance to activate our membership and really get out in the community and let people who we are and what we’re doing, and what it’s all about.”
Gough, who is also the community health manager at St Luke’s, said the mural expresses a key aim of Southern Idaho Youth Succeed: To help contribute to community health by encouraging those positive experiences that build resilience.
“The idea is to bring awareness and educate the community about Adverse Childhood Experiences, and how that’s impacting our youth, and eventually our adults,” Gough said. “At the same level we want to say that there’s opportunities to build resilience, and that comes from building healthy outcomes through positive experiences. We can do that, we can be great mentors to our youth in the community, we can do positive things that help people overcome those things.”
Kevin Sandau is co-chairman of the Southern Idaho Youth Succeed, and is also director of the Twin Falls County Juvenile Probation. In his line of work, he interacts with a lot of people who have a high number of adverse childhood experiences.
“In juvenile justice, we work with a lot of families and kids that have dealt with a lot of trauma in their lives,” Sandau said.
Juvenile Justice recently began using an ACEs screening to identify how many bad events someone has been exposed to.
“Over time it’s been determined that these adverse childhood experiences have a huge impact on people,” Sandau said. “The more ACEs you experience as a kid, the more likely you are to not live very long, to use drugs and alcohol — all the things we associate with people that struggle in life.”
Working to improve resilience and create positive experience for youth is something he wants to promote because it has been shown to counter the negative impacts of ACEs.
“It kind of counteracts the adverse stuff that’s happened in your life, by getting involved with positive stuff. Especially kids being in positive activities with adults,” Sandau said. “In order to create healthy communities, the more positive stuff we can get going on between adults and youth, the more healthy our community is going to be.”
The group recently received a grant for $100,000 from Idaho Resilience project to use for programs, trainings, events and outreach in the Magic Valley. Future plans include holding education-based training in the community around the Community Resilience Model training to give individuals tools and methods to keep themselves and others healthy, as well as suicide prevention training.
The group also plans to support crisis intervention training for emergency responders around the region, like one the Twin Falls Police Department has been holding for a number of years.
“This year we’ve been a little bigger, and every year we hope to grow this message,” Sandau said.