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Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation working to gather 20,000 teen opinions across Western New York & Southeast Michigan


Wed, Nov 28th 2018 03:35 pm
Foundation launches 'Teen Opinions Count' project to help inform future investments in afterschool programs
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is asking teens and adults in Western New York and Southeast Michigan to finish this sentence: "Where I live or work, one thing teens want when they are not in school is ...".
Teen Opinions Count, the latest effort led by the foundation, is investing in research to hear directly from teens about what they're most interested in doing when they're not in the classroom. The project is collaborating with schools and youth organizations to collect data that will inform how future investments can best reflect youth interests and create more opportunities across 16 counties.
The project will collect feedback from up to 10,000 participants in each region. Nearly 35 Western New York and 15 Southeast Michigan school districts are currently represented. The majority of contributions will come from teens, with additional contributions from parents, caregivers, educators and local youth leaders. The foundation has also enlisted an advisory group made up of teens and adults from both regions to help inform the project.
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is pursuing additional school and youth organization collaborators in the following counties:
•Southeast Michigan: Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, St. Clair, Monroe
•Western New York: Erie, Monroe, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Genesee, Allegany, Orleans, Wyoming
"We want to empower teens to use their voices to create change in their communities, and it starts by spending 10 to 15 minutes online to share their unique ideas and opinions about how they'd like to use their time outside of school," said Amber Slichta, vice president of programs, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. "Many school districts that we're working with across Western New York and Southeast Michigan have already received their toolkits to begin the process, and we encourage all schools and youth organizations in eligible counties to get involved. Ultimately, through this research, our hope is to make strategic, impactful investments in areas that teens value."
The information is being gathered via an online portal using a process called "group concept mapping" (GCM), implemented by Concept Systems Inc. GCM is a tool that helps gather and organize ideas into themes to identify common interests. The two-step online project will collect and analyze data over the coming months, with initial results to be shared by June 2019.
"Teen Opinions Count is the largest group concept-mapping project to-date. We've received tremendous feedback so far and we look forward to growing this opportunity to additional Western New York and Southeast Michigan communities," said Dr. Scott Rosas, director of research and evaluation at Concept Systems. "In addition to uncovering valuable information to help guide the investment from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the process is fun and engaging. It encourages creative and critical thinking, which are important skills for developing young minds, and will be a great exercise for adults as well."
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation provides grants to help improve the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two regions reflect Wilson's devotion to his hometown of Detroit and adopted hometown of greater Buffalo, home of the Buffalo Bills franchise he founded and owned for 54 years prior to his passing. Teen Opinions Count highlights children and youth, one of the foundation's four key funding areas, with a focus on supporting their pathways to success.
Teens, parents and caretakers can participate in Teen Opinions Count and share their ideas about what teens are interested in when they're not in school by visiting www.conceptsystems.com/teenopinionscount.
Educators and youth organization leaders interested in receiving Teen Opinions Count toolkits to support youth participation in their area can contact Megan Barber at [email protected].
Additional information about the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation's commitment to Western New York and Southeast Michigan communities is available at www.RCWJRF.org.

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