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Youth Summit Examines School Climate

May 29, 2024

Northfield High School students attending the spring Youth Data Summit used data as a springboard for discussions about the use of cell phones in school, barriers to attendance, and ways to create a safe, positive climate for learning.

The Northfield students joined students from Faribault, Tri City United (Lonsdale-Montgomery-Le Center), and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (WEM) to look at data trends and brainstorm actions relating to district disciplinary policies. More than 70 students participated in the May 8 event, which was held at South Central College in Faribault.

Northfield High School Counselor Mark Ensrud said, “We were incredibly impressed with our Northfield students, who are trying to go beyond offering their voice to offering specific, concrete action steps in response to the question: how can we create/improve the conditions at Northfield High School for a positive culture, and a safe place to learn?”

Now in its fourth year, the youth-led Achievement and Integration Data Summit continues to be an important tool in gathering youth feedback to help the participating districts be safe, welcoming environments for all students.

Martha Lundin, Healthy Community Initiative’s Youth Engagement Coordinator, said interdistrict discussion is an important aspect of the summit’s structure.

“The time to connect with other districts is often one of the highlights for students,” they said.

In the morning, students worked in mixed-district groups to review policies from across all four districts, highlight what was working well, and identify how policies could be strengthened for clarity. In the afternoon, students returned to their respective district groups to view and discuss data related to their district’s student demographics, reasons for disciplinary action, and the number of disciplinary actions taken.

Ensrud said the Northfield students split into three smaller groups in the afternoon to review data specific to discipline, attendance, credit progress, and connectedness (via student survey results and activities participation). He said the attendance data sparked rich discussion as students explored ways to encourage and promote attendance, and recognized the importance of positive relationships with peers and adults.

“The high school is forming a summer work team specific to this issue, and the district is also forming a summer work team,” Ensrud said. “The ideas and suggestions brought forward at the data summit will certainly be a part of those summer conversations and action planning meetings moving toward next year.”

Lundin added that the Northfield students will gather again to draft an action plan to update the LINK program—a peer mentor program that groups incoming ninth graders with upperclassmen leaders.

“Summit participants feel confident that growing strong peer connections early in high school will show a decrease in unexcused absences over time,” they said.

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