The Wilton Youth Council is hosting a three-part series, “A Community Conversation: CHARTING THE COURSE,” which kicks off with two showings (morning and evening) of the documentary, Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture.

In March, Dr. Suniya Luthar presented results of her November 2017 survey of Wilton High School students to an audience of about 350 parents and community members, prompting concerns about the well-being of adolescents in our town.

“Our parent education committee was aware of Dr. Luthar’s research on resilience in adolescents raised in affluent environments, so we invited her to speak in Wilton in October 2016,” says Genevieve Eason, of Wilton Youth Council. “Her talk, Privileged and Pressured, was illuminating and sparked interest in gathering more data about how our kids are doing. We had a feeling that many of our students were having a tough time, and her survey last school year confirmed that.”

Luthar’s study showed that about 30% of Wilton students exhibit symptoms that are indicative of anxiety and depression, a rate that is over four times higher than national norms. Wilton students also report elevated rates of use of substances, including alcohol, marijuana and e-cigarettes.

Kim Zemo, the District Safe School Climate Coordinator, and I presented the results to the Board of Education, and of course, their first question was, ‘What are we going to do about this?’” says Eason. “There’s no one quick and easy fix, but many organizations in this community, including the school district, have been thoughtful about responding.”

One such response is the upcoming three-part Community Conversation series, Charting the Course, a collaboration between Wilton Public Schools, Wilton Youth Council and Wilton Youth Services.

“The purpose of this series is to give the community the opportunity to think about whether our current achievement culture is actually resulting in success for our students,” says Andrea Leonardi, assistant superintendent of schools for special services. “We hear from parents with children of all ages that they are grappling with difficult issues. Parents wonder if stress is having unintended consequences. There are fights at home over homework. Kids aren’t always getting enough sleep. Some parents feel that they’ve lost the ability to make decisions about how they spend family time. This is a chance to examine some of the challenges families and schools face in preparing children for healthy, successful futures.”

The series begins on Monday, Nov. 12 with two opportunities to view the movie, Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture, at 10 a.m. or 7 p.m. in the Wilton High School Clune Center. Each screening will be followed by a question and answer session with a panel of local experts.

Parents, educators, concerned members of the community, and students in middle school and up are encouraged to attend. The event will be moderated by Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D.

The series will continue in February, with two screenings on Monday, Feb. 4 of the movie Beyond Measure, which explores innovative solutions that schools and communities across the country are pursuing. Finally, the series culminates with a Community Conversation in the evening on Monday, Feb. 25. More information about the events in February is to come. Participants are welcome to join the conversation at any point in the series.

This presentation is part of a wider effort of children- and youth-serving community organizations which are addressing the needs of Wilton’s young residents. Organizations such as Wilton Youth Council (a non-profit), Wilton Youth Services (a town department), SPED*NET Wilton, the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force, the PTAs, the new Special Education PTA, Wilton Continuing Education, and Wilton Public Schools are offering programs for students, parents and the community.

“Our community works collaboratively and comprehensively to ensure to ensure the well-being of all our children here in Wilton,” says Colleen Fawcett, the coordinator of Wilton Youth Services. “Together, we identify needs and then respond in effective ways. We come together frequently to share data, ideas, knowledge, resources and employ both prevention and intervention strategies that are evidence-based and innovative. All of these organizations are compassionate about helping children not necessarily avoid problems, but instead thrive regardless of problems.”

Admission is free; registration is recommended at the links below. Contact Genevieve Eason with questions.

Register for the 10 a.m. showing of Race to Nowhere

Register for the 7 p.m. showing of Race to Nowhere