History of PYD and Westport Together
From PYD in 1996 to Westport Together in 2019
In 1996, the United Way organized two town-wide forum on youth issues, which resulted in Westport’s adoption of the Positive Youth Development framework. PYD guides communities in organizing services by strengthening developmental assets and offering supports to parents and community members in a collaborative consensus-building process.
These forums recognized the value of involving a broad representation of stakeholders from various youth-serving organizations, including youth themselves. The outcome pointed towards more community collaboration in order to support children and families in their homes, at school and in the greater community.
The timing of these forums coincided with results of the First Selectman’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention (Arcudi Administration) where Westport schools focused on the social and emotional needs of children, and the Westport Youth Commission focused on more youth programming in the community. Overall, there was a confluence of varied groups, all focusing on improving the health and safety of our children.
Key stakeholders identified the following recommendations and areas of focus:
Middle School Programming
Safe Places for Youth to Gather
Youth Leadership Development
The Positive Youth Development framework brought the community together with an emphasis on the prevention of youth risky behavior and enhancement of parenting education by strengthening developmental assets and providing parenting supports, rather than correcting challenges after the fact. The Town of Westport Human Services Department and the Schools provided staff and coordination to the efforts while Positive Directions (formerly known as the Drug and Alcohol Dependency Council) offered expertise in counseling and prevention. Parents from the PTA supported and advised existing programs like the Mentor Program, after-school enrichment and helped to develop new ones. Dialogue between groups resulting in new programs including: Toquet Hall, Community Service Corps, school psychologists meetings, Suniya Luther’s research and Risky Behavior Forums among other programs based on local and national trends.
The Positive Youth Development (PYD) Initiative was formalized when a Parent Resource Committee was established. Representatives from the each school PTA began consulting regularly with Westport thought leaders from each domain of community partners including: Human Services Director Barbara Butler, former Assistant Superintendent Lynn Shane, former Positive Directions Executive Director Marty Hauhuth and the late Westport-Weston United Way Executive Director Bernice Corday, who recognized the need for coordination among key stakeholders.
In 1999, The United Way funded a new PYD Coordinator position, through the Human Services Department, to coordinate the community’s effort and provide staff support for program development and marketing. The PYD partners met monthly throughout the school years to develop programs that addressed the needs of Westport’s children and families. An email newsletter “PYDoings” helped to improve communication and marking efforts across school and community groups.
Together, the PYD partners implemented a school wide substance abuse survey to begin measuring results of prevention efforts in Town. When the United Way moved from Westport and re-distributed funds to other locations throughout coastal Fairfield County, the Town of Westport continued to support and manage the part time PYD Coordinator position through a combination of town funds and grant money from the State Department of Education/Youth Service Bureau.
In 2017, at the recommendation of the school administration, PYD joined with other PTA bodies and school professionals to create The PYD, Health, and Wellness Committee, a partnership between Westport Public Schools, Westport PTA and the Westport Department of Human Services. The group serves in an advisory capacity to gain a better understanding of school and community health and wellness issues, and provide feedback and guidance regarding programs and services. The mission remained unchanged: to promote the positive development of children and youth in families, in schools, among peers and in the community.
In 2019, Town/School collaborators came together to revitalize the longstanding partnership and re-brand the initiative to WESTPORT TOGETHER in an effort to engage more of our community partners, strengthen programming and enhance coordination among other non-profit community agencies. The result is:
Westport Together Mission Statement
Westport Together is an alliance that unites Westport by strengthening the health and well-being of youth within our families, schools and community and nurtures positive youth development through advocacy, education, and enhanced community connections.
Advocacy for Resilient Youth, Healthy Families, and Strong Communities
Education through Programs, Presentations and Resources
Enhanced Connections among Families, Schools and the Greater Westport Community