Some business owners and community leaders are hoping to set a tone of respect in the Helena and they launched their campaign at Alive @ 5 under a moderately gloomy sky Wednesday night. Specifically that means expecting respect from each other, to local businesses and the community as a whole.
The philosophies and framework to create a caring and safe environment comes from the Montana Behavior Initiative, a research proven strategy for effective education in schools through supporting staff and student behavior and supportive decision making. This is the first time the strategies will be implemented in a community-wide environment.
According to the Youth Connections Coalition, 59 percent of youth in Helena perceive adults in the community as thinking stealing, fighting and vandalizing another person’s or business’s property is OK. And it says that seven out of 10 Helena youth perceive violence as a type of entertainment.
Shalon Hastings, owner of Taco Del Sol, is one of the business owners involved in the effort to reduce inappropriate behavior among young people.
“We are setting the bar so people know that should they come across a situation, they know they have support of their fellow citizens, businesses and it gives them confidence to step in,” she said. “We have all committed ourselves to it.”
Participants at the event launching included county commissioners, Helena Police Department, the Big Dipper, Lewis and Clark Library and student representatives from each high school.
Susan Dotter, MBI expert, is delighted with the community involved.
“These Helena businesses are the first in our state and probably in our nation to take this learning framework and adapt it to a broader landscape: Our public places for families and community get-togethers like this. They are brave folks, and I guess it’s not a surprise that our most entrepreneurial community representatives would be trailblazing such a great idea.”
Drenda Niemann, director of Youth Connections, said the group has been learning about effective ways to foster respect community-wide since February.
“Tonight is the unveiling of the message and how we hope that will create a safe and supportive environment for our kids,” she said.
Five Helena Expect Respect banners funded by the Business Improvement District and Youth Connections will go up this week between Pioneer Park and the Great Northern Carousel. Window clings will accompany the campaign to share the vision and expectations and there is talk of bumper stickers too.