PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Local youth advocates and organizations got together on Wednesday to see how to best help 167,560 students attend Palm Beach County district-operated schools and other youth in the area.
"I've actually moved around 3-4 times already in my life, not counting the one where I moved from Cuba. It's a nerve-wracking experience," said 19-year-old Humberto Sigler who started in Palm Beach County as a middle schooler and relied on counselors and school resources to graduate.
Now, Sigler is working to be a first-generation college grad.
"After a while, you got to saddle in and you just got to do what you got to do and hopefully if it comes along the way where you meet great people and you're comfortable in your environment then that's good, that's great," said Sigler.
Sigler is now paying it forward as an intern with Palm Beach County Youth Services Department, which helped host a summit called "Birth to 22."
"It was wonderful, it was great to see the faces of so many people that are committed to the well-being of our youth," said Tammy Fields, director of the department.
The event brought 40 leaders from local organizations to collaborate on the issues youth ages 0 to 22 in Palm Beach County are facing.
Some of the participants are:
- Palm Beach County Youth Services
- Children’s Services Council
- Palm Beach County Community Services
- Juvenile Courts
- United Way
- Early Learning Coalition
- Palm Health
- League of Cities
- BeWell PBC
- Prime Time
- Career Source
- Girls Coordinating Council
- My Brother’s Keeper
- Unicorn Children’s Foundation
- School District of Palm Beach County
One of the biggest concerns was that 16 to 22-year-olds are having a difficult time finding a place to live, forcing some to move out of the area.
"If we lose all of that talent, we lose the future of Palm Beach County, so we need those inspired ideas and creative thinking that come through with youth," said Fields.
Through the program's 300+ community networks, they're working on a "Youth Master Plan" where they can collaborate to bring resources and funding to the issues.
"We help establish the priorities and then the funders that are part of Birth to 22 allocate the resources according to the priorities," said Fields.
"It's really important to coordinate and make sure that we know where to refer kids when we can't deal with their needs and just know what resources are available and it's important to share those resources with our community."
Fields said the first Youth Master Plan was established in 2016 and hadn't been updated since.
Now, they plan to update it every 3 years.
"Things are changing so rapidly that 3 years is probably a good window to focus on," said Fields.
Birth to 22 also hosts annual conversations with community members on what their needs are.
Among the top 3 resource needs expressed were mental health, the economy/housing, and education, including resources for afterschool programs and post-secondary education.
Birth to 22 hopes to have a defined Youth Master Plan ready by next year.
"Today was step one of updating our plan and there will be future meetings and a new published document that will really focus on what we want to do over the next 3 years to improve outcomes for our youth," said Fields.