North Reading Youth Services Support Association (NRYSSA), led by local parents and volunteers, was formed to provide the missing piece to the puzzle of North Reading youth organizations. Its beginnings go back to the spring of 2005 and started, as many groups do, with discussions around critical events. Each week the “Police Blotter” in the North Reading Transcript announced the latest in the world of drug and alcohol arrests in town involving the youth of North Reading. We knew the individuals. We knew their families. We knew their parents. We remembered them as good kids. How could things have gone so wrong? And why, in a town with so many programs and so much to offer, was this happening?
As a group, we attended the Youth at Risk meetings with the Superintendent. At the same time that spring our Police Department ran a Drug Awareness Forum for NR residents. In the fall, the NRPD introduced a 6-week Citizen’s Academy designed to educate citizens about the drug and alcohol problems which existed in NR. Our group also researched a number of programs designed to combat drug and alcohol abuse among teens. The discussions and research all indicated that the focus had to be on changing attitudes. Our energy had to go to programs which would develop self-esteem in our young people to give them the tools they would need to make tough decisions. These things are not attained through any one sport, club, activity or youth center. We believe there has to be a common thread throughout the existing community and a Youth Services program was the missing piece in North Reading.
Now, in 2015, the Youth Services Department continuest to provide out-of-school programming, youth groups, mentoring, and more. We work closely with the North Reading Community Impact Team in developing youth substance use prevention programming and offering parent and student educational programs.