29 Nov DSU Celebrates First 10 Years!
By Allison Berry, DSU Board President
As published in the Duxbury Clipper 11/22/2016
You may have walked into the Wright Building recently to drop off your leftover Halloween Candy at the Duxbury Student Union. The 10 foot high and 6 foot wide pile of boxes filled with candy ready to be delivered to U.S. Troops serving overseas is pretty awe inspiring. The kids in the after school program find it hard to believe that the soldiers will be able to eat all of it without a stomachache. It’s just as hard to believe that this vibrant youth center led by Executive Director Sue Bradford and her energetic staff is celebrating its tenth anniversary this fall, over the last decade having established itself as a critical resource within the community.
The DSU opened its doors in the Wright Building in the fall of 2007 after a hard fought battle by a group of parents and community leaders who were committed to establishing a safe social gathering place for middle and high school students. At that time, data from a Youth-at-Risk Study fueled DSU founders who believed in the power of non-parent adult and peer influence to guide one another to make good decisions in the face of endless tough choices. The original model provided a central location for students to hang out, experience positive, supervised social interactions, and blow off steam.
A decade later the challenges students face have changed significantly with introduction of mobile technology, access to devices as early as elementary school, hyper-focus on college resume building, and heightened academic and sport performance expectations. At the same time, students today are notably more stressed and anxious, and are seeking coping strategies to handle the pressures to achieve, including alcohol and substance use. One thing is for sure, families and student needs are constantly evolving, and likewise DSU’s operations model continues to evolve to anticipate and meet their needs.
Having opened as a teen center for middle and high school students, DSU was embraced with instant enthusiasm and popularity. With the school start time change in 2010, DSU created a program to fill in the hour-long childcare gap between the Alden Elementary School bell and DHS/DMS dismissal. In the following years, popularity for the program grew and families sought longer hours. Bradford, who has been in charge since 2009 said, “we quickly realized DSU could make a long lasting impact on student success and influence positive behaviors when we are able to connect with students as early as third grade.” Today DSU is far more than a teen center, it’s Duxbury’s Youth Center, truly serving all ages.
John Heinstadt, DSU Board Treasurer and former Duxbury School Committee member, says, “The uniqueness of the central campus location in Duxbury’s historic Wright Building makes it possible for DSU to operate as a Student Union, the center of student life on the school campus.”
DSU brings exceptional programming to Duxbury students where the schools leave off, partnering closely to complement school initiatives. The structured homework program featuring executive function skill building that starts in the third grade helps students to develop consistent study habits early on in an optimal, distraction-free environment. As students make the daunting transition from elementary school to sixth grade, the emphasis for middle school students is on consistency in meeting as well as self-advocacy, selfcare, and self-respect. The DSU staff work with students to celebrate success and learn from failure, and feel empowered to manage academic, athletic, and social expectations independently. Participants at every age quickly realize the benefits of being in control, and parents and families enjoy harmony at home. High School students know DSU is the place to go to find fun and fulfilling volunteer opportunities. Whether it’s sharing a passion for history in the homework program or mad math skills in the summer math packet tutoring program, DHS students often find themselves coming back to pitch in well after they’ve fulfilled their service hours.
Talented DHS musicians have found a stage at DSU to share their talents in front of family and peers. From weekend nights throughout the year to featured performance at community events like the Winsor House Duxbury Oyster Festival and the Duxbury Senior Center’s free outdoor summer concert, there are no shortage of opportunities for teens to develop a stage presence. On Friday November 25th at 7pm DSU hosts a Thanksgiving Coffee House for DHS students and alums, open to the public.
DSU is the place to go for innovative ways to connect with our youth population, and continues to positively impact youth and families through after school programs, special events, and wider reaching community initiatives and partnerships. DSU partners closely with Duxbury FACTS, the Police, the Schools, and the Interfaith Council, to mitigate teen risks, address mental wellness and behavioral health, educate youth about the consequences of substance use and addiction, and connect those in crisis and recovery to available resources.
Considering the complicated landscape for students and the increasingly elevated risk climate for young people, today the need for a youth center and strong community partnerships is more relevant than ever. DSU urges residents to participate in their annual fund campaign to ensure they can continue to serve the needs of youth and families for years to come.
To make a contribution to DSU’s Annual Fund Campaign:
“What 10 Years of DSU Looks Like”
Donate online here, or send your check payable to DSU, PO Box 1586, Duxbury, MA 02331.
The Duxbury Student Union is a 501c3 non-profit organization (Tax ID#20-007397). All donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.