Cares rolls out ‘Kudos’ to recognize teens

Dubois County CARES is launching an initiative to let adolescents in the county know that they are noticed and appreciated.

CARES stands for Coalition for Adolescent Resilience and Empowerment Strategies. Its purpose is to keep youth in Dubois County alcohol- and drug-free. The new project is called CARES Kudos.

Studies have shown that young people often turn to substances or other negative coping skills when they feel they don’t matter. CARES Kudos is an effort to lead the community in confronting that mindset.

Kudos is a recognition program whereby members of the community are invited “to give an accolade to a youth who is doing the right thing,” explains CARES Director Candy Neal. Residents are encouraged to recognize great teens in the area by filling out a recognition form from a CARES Kudos poster and returning it to CARES, or using the QR Code on the poster and filling out a digital form. From there, volunteers will write short congratulatory notes and get those and the original recognition forms to the specific students.

The activity deserving a shout-out “may be helping someone with their groceries, watching their siblings or picking up litter – anything that makes our community a better place,” Neal says. “If you notice a youth doing something positive, CARES Kudos is the way to let that youth know that you noticed.”

When asked on the Indiana Youth Survey in 2022 if their neighbors notice when they do a good job and let them know it, 80.6 percent of girls statewide said no. Not quite that many boys, 75.3 percent, said no.

Locally, 72.4 percent of Dubois County girls in grades six through 12 answered no to the same survey question in 2023, and 63.4 percent of boys said no.

Looking more closely at the numbers, the no’s from boys were highest at the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade levels. The rates for girls were high across the board, grades six through 12.

The two related questions on the survey, which also got a majority of negative responses across the state and county, were:

There are people in my neighborhood who are proud of me.

There are people in my neighborhood who encourage me to do my best.

The high number of negative responses to these questions translates to there being low protection at every grade level regarding recognition for involvement in positive community activity. That low protection is a risk factor for drug and alcohol use.

Enter CARES Kudos.

“Our youth want to know that adults are paying attention. Just like adults, they want to know that we see them, we hear them, and we appreciate them,” Neal says.

Kudos posters have started going up on public bulletin boards across the county. If you would like one to hang in your workplace, call CARES at 812-827-8464. Posters also are available for pickup at the Clem and Mary Lange YMCA in Ferdinand, Northeast Dubos High School, Southridge High School in Huntingburg and the Jasper Chamber of Commerce.

The CARES Kudos project is making an appearance just after the last project meant to encourage adolescent social involvement ended. From October 2022 through this past September, CARES sponsored a quarterly game get-together – one in each school district – for teens and Baby Boomers. That project broadened the definition of “people in my neighborhood” for adolescents and provided space and activities for the two generations to interact. CARES appreciates the collaboration from the four locales that offered their space free of charge: Celestine Park, Clem and Mary Lange YMCA in Ferdinand, Jasper Public Library and Teen Outback in Huntingburg.