New position created to connect area children with right activities
by Joanne Braun, Sewickley Herald Staff Writer
August 20, 2009
Area youth organizations are taking steps to make Quaker Valley children feel more valued.
One of those steps is hiring Floyd Faulkner as new community youth coordinator, said Susan Kaminski, Youth Connect chairman.
Kaminski introduced Faulkner to Sewickley Valley Chamber of Commerce members last week at their monthly meeting.
She said Sewickley has many area programs for the youth, but the challenge is connecting the right child with the right activity.
That's where Faulkner comes in.
The Coraopolis native said he has a lot of experience he can apply to his new position, but, "first it comes from the heart.
"If we can build relationships with the youth, then we have the opportunity to impact their lives. That's what I want to do. I want to reach children who feel lost and don't have a sense of belonging.
"We need to find out what their interests and needs are and instruct them to the vast resources we have in the community," he said.
Kaminski said data from a survey provided by The Search Institute on 40 developmental assets showed in 2003 and 2007, only about 25 percent of participating Quaker Valley students believe adults value them.
The Search Institute is an independent nonprofit organization that has developed an "assets" approach to reducing risky behaviors, and has created tools to measure and resources to help educate and develop.
Quaker Valley administrators decided to do the survey in 2003 when they first learned of the tool. A follow up was done in 2007 with 650 students in grades 6 through 12.
"The follow-up was done because from the first time around, it was clear information gained from the survey was valuable and timing-wise, the kids on the younger end of the first survey were about to graduate," Kaminski said.
The survey asks students questions relating to 40 developmental assets including participating in a sport, having someone helping with homework and believing adults in the community value them. They are asked questions such as do they spend more than two hours a day alone at home and have they gotten drunk once or more in the last two weeks.
Of all the categories, Quaker Valley scored the lowest in the do you feel valued by adults question.
The idea for the youth coordinator position grew out of results of the survey and other issues targeted by Youth Connect's steering committee--representatives from Quaker Valley School District, Sewickley Academy, The Laughlin Center, Sewickley Public Library, The Presbyterian Church, Sewickley, Sewickley Valley YMCA, Sweetwater Center for the Art, Sewickley Community Center, Child Health Association of Sewickley and other community representatives.
"The groups have had some success in adding after-school programming of various types.
"But the reality is that the needs of the kids in the community vary greatly," Kaminski said.
"The issue isn't so much that we don't have opportunities and resources for our kids, it is that they (and/or their parents) don't know how to access them," she said.
Youth Connect worked to get the majority of the funding put together. Faulkner's $38,000 salary plus benefits for the one-year pilot program is being funded through the support of Child Health Association of Sewickley, The Presbyterian Church, Sewickley and The Grable Foundation.
School district administrators managed the hiring process and are overseeing the program.
There were 53 applicants for the position, and the interviews started at the end of March. Faulkner, hired as a school district employee, was interviewed four times before landing the job.
"Floyd is a perfect fit for this position," Kaminski said.
"Not only is his depth and breadth of experience well-suited for the job, his respect for and understanding of youth gives him the ability to connect with them. And this will be the most important aspect of his role."
Faulkner said he has felt welcomed by those he has met so far including police Chief John Ershner and borough Manager Kevin Flannery who pledged their help and support.
"We've been excited by the enthusiasm that everyone has shown for the position and the many ideas and offers of help that have come out of the initial meetings." Kaminski said.
"I am so excited about the possibilities that he is bringing to the community."
Faulkner's office is set up at the Laughlin Center because Kaminski said is it open late, and Faulkner will be working in the evenings.
Those who have questions or who need to contact Faulkner can call the center at 412-741-4087.
Meet Floyd Faulkner
Wherever the kids are, that's where Floyd Faulkner plans to be.
The new community youth worker wants to let Sewickley area children know he is there for them. He wants to find out their interests and get them involved in the right activities for them.
"I need to be visible in the community. They will know me as Mr. Floyd. Each day with a child is a teachable moment. We need to capture that time and build their self-confidence and academic achievements. We need to bridge the gap between adults and children," he said.
He plans to observe children in different environments by getting to know those who congregate at Sewickley Public Library and visiting children at the White House at The Presbyterian Church, Sewickley. He plans to work with Sewickley Community Center and has set up a program with Sewickley YMCA to bring kids in to try out the facility.
He also will attend evening community and athletic events.
In addition, he will meet with agency representatives to coordinate schedules to avoid overlaps and to add new programs such as youth groups.
Faulkner worked for eight years as director of student services at Northside Urban Pathways Charter School in Pittsburgh.
He was a Pee Wee football coach in Coraopolis for two years and a collegiate football player for Edinboro University, where he received a degree in criminal justice.
The Cornell High School graduate once dreamed of becoming an FBI agent, but ended up leaning more toward social work, moving from a management position at Hertz Corporation to a case worker job with Neighborhood Centers Association on the Northside.
He and his wife, Stephanie, have four children, ages 17, 8, 6 and 2.
His goal is to help kids become lifelong learners and to have a positive view of their future.
Faulkner said he believes area businesses and organizations have their eyes out for youth, but "we need to put our heads and resources together."
And, that, he said, will happen one child at a time.