Y is for Youth!

Credit: Robert Kneschke Shutterstock

As a father, some of my favorite memories are the joyous sounds of my children interacting with others on playgrounds without a care in the world. Yet, I can’t help but wonder how to ensure that more children have access to these experiences. In an ideal setting, a newborn child should signify hope for the future, gratitude for the present moment, and a promise to ensure their future opportunities will be better than previous generations. However, raising them takes much more than dedicated parents. It takes a community that allows them the freedom to play and learn or develop and grow in safe settings. It doesn’t mean that they won’t get hurt, experience trauma, or falter along the way. Under the social contract theory, someone will always be there to give them a pep talk, tend to their wounds, ignite their curiosity, provide safety and security, and nourish their bodies. In action, that implicit promise is often fragmented at best and allows too many of America’s youth to fall through the systemic gaps.

Continuous progress and social advancement are evident throughout our society and typically link those opportunities to our youth and families. Yet, financial resources aren’t always distributed equally at the federal, state, and local levels so that the upward mobility climb can appear much higher from the perspective of a family much lower on the socioeconomic ladder. Education is often referred to as the great equalizer for our youth linked to self-empowerment and self-determination outcomes. Still, the truth within that grand vision may only extend as far as being within the correct zip code.

The true character of society is revealed in how it treats its children.

– Nelson Mandela.

Then came the advent of cheaper and more accessible technology, but the gap between the haves and have-nots is divided more or less by internet access instead of smartphones and laptops. As digital natives, many youths are tech savvy but have yet to experience its full positive and meaningful impacts within our social construct. If we are to remain competitive in the 21st century by creating a society of contributing and self-sustaining adults, the gaps within the new social dynamic will need to be closed. Inspired by the social determinants of health theory, MNDYRR, currently in the beta phase, offers a multi-functional solution to address students falling through gaps by focusing on the health aspects of their lives through community and streamlining the process for child welfare professionals.

First, the app addresses what’s ailing them regarding mental health. The mental health crises facing our youth signify a disconnect within the systemic process. Although the stigma surrounding mental illness or ailments is dissipating, schools and child welfare agencies lack the human, time, and monetary resources to address today’s youths’ growing problems. It is up to us to reimagine our social infrastructure to foster their potential, will, and eventual success. There are a variety of theories, but the great equalizer will likely be expressed through AI-based therapy solutions rather than filling the widening shortage already estimated at 4.5 million therapists in America alone. In essence, equitable access to mental health-related resources benefits our entire society.

Between teachers, social workers, coaches, mentors, and parents, there are millions of Americans doing the most important work by participating in the village to raise children and adolescents. As expressed throughout this article, the promises have been unkept, and the social contract has been unmet for too many children born into circumstances well beyond their control. What number of at-risk youth is acceptable to allow to slip through the evident cracks in our systems? For the MNDYRR community, the answer is zero and aims to serve communities by creating the social catalyst that starts by changing the collective mindset toward an at-promise lens. But it can’t be done without rallying communities to live up to the promise and betterment of our nation’s youth.

Adam Starks, Ph.D., is the Founder & CEO of MNDYRR Technologies, Inc., a professional speaker, and author. For more information, please visit https://mndyrr.com and https://adamstarks.com.

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