COLLEGE STATION — It might not make any best-seller lists, but a new book on recreation for at-risk youth is making an impression in the recreation field.
Recreation Programs That Work For At-Risk Youth, published in February by Venture Publishing of State College, Pa., is the first collection of case studies regarding recreation programs for at-risk youth. The book was needed because concern for the well-being of at- risk youth is increasing nationally, said Dr. Peter Witt, co-author of the book and chairman of the department of recreation, park and tourism sciences as Texas A&M University.
The collection results from presentations at a 1995 colloquium on recreation services for at-risk youth that was held in Fort Worth.
At-risk youth are generally those who are viewed as being “at risk of not growing up to lead a productive life,” Witt said. Risk behaviors are those such as drug use, gang membership, juvenile sexual activity and dropping out of school.
Crime has become a particularly important issue for legislators and others, Witt said, and community leaders are looking for programs to help steer youth away from joining gangs and juvenile delinquency.
“Most people agree that paying for programs that work is preferable to the social and economic costs of dealing with crime after the fact,” Witt said.
The collection highlights initiatives that have been effective across the United States, Witt said. It grew out of a 1995 colloquium on recreation programs for at-risk youth that was held in Fort Worth and drew more than 150 participants.
It details programs such as those in Kansas City, Mo., where juvenile apprehensions were reduced 25 percent in one year in areas served by recreation centers with “midnight basketball” programs. In addition, violent crimes in those areas declined 38 percent, non- aggrated assaults decreased by 67 percent, and property offenses fell by 46 percent.
In Fort Worth, crime dropped by 28 percent within a one-mile radius of community centers offering late-night programs, while juvenile crimes rose an average of 39 percent in five other areas where the programs were not offered.
Richard Zavala, director of parks and community services for city of Fort Worth, said both gatherings like the colloquium and the resultant book are greatly needed.
“When you bring those kinds of minds together with a focus on a specific problem, you learn a great deal from each other. There may be a program out there that wouldn’t exactly fit in your community, but portions may dovetail into your program to make it more effective,” Zavala said.
“These case studies are about tried-and-true programs that, beyond being shared to help other professionals, can emphasize the need for these programs to politicians and the community at large.”
The book consists of 38 case studies from around the country. The book’s other co-author, Dr. John Crompton, is a professor and colleague of Witt’s at Texas A&M.
“The need for information on these kinds of programs is so great that we’re already thinking about putting together a second volume,” Witt said.