Celebrating Healthy Communities Director Pat Senecal presented a Making a Difference Award plaque to Ignacio Mayor Stella Cox on Dec. 7, recognizing the town board and staff for promoting youth developmental assets.
Cox also got to wear a red super-hero cape.
"There are a lot of things that make me very happy to be here," Senecal said. She commended Town Development Director Dan Naiman for his work with youth earlier this year to create a colorful mural now in place on the south side of the Ignacio Floral building. It's titled "Own your Path" and shows how healthy lifestyle choices lead to success, Senecal said.
Naiman's help on this showed youth that they were valued by adults in the community, number 7 on a list of 40 youth developmental assets. The mural was a joint project with SUCAP, Celebrating Healthy Communities, the Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Dancing Spirit Community Arts Center, Ignacio Floral, and local artists.
In her prepared statement, Senecal said a 2015 youth survey in La Plata County came back with only 31 percent of responders perceiving that youth are valued by adults. "Thus the importance of Dan's efforts on behalf of the Town of Ignacio," she said. "If youth are alienated from their community, feel they don't matter, they often choose unhealthy paths to get attention."
The mission of Celebrating Healthy Communities "is to collaborate, engage, and educate to promote addiction-free lifestyles by building Developmental Assets for all," she said.
The other factor for the award was the town board's continued ban on marijuana businesses after a recent request to change it so a medical marijuana dispensary could open. Even medical marijuana serves to normalize the use of marijuana and decrease its perception of harm in youth, Senecal said. She cited Cox's comments during that discussion: "What kind of quality of life do we want in our community? We want to be drug free."
The board cited a higher priority than financial gain and supported Asset #13, "neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people's behavior"; and #14, "Parents and other adults model positive, responsible behavior," she said. The Developmental Assets are skills, experiences, relationships, and values that are known to help youth become responsible, caring, and healthy adults, Senecal said.
Half of the assets are external things in a young person's life, and half are internal characteristics.