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“Where I live or work, one thing teens want when they are not in school is…”

In recent months, we have seen a lot of great initiatives coming from The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, from funding for parks and trails, to Built to Play microparks and skateparks. During the month of December, the Foundation has been asking teens and adults in WNY and Southeast Michigan to finish the sentence “Where I live or work, one thing teens want when they are not in school is…”

By asking this question, the Foundation feels that it can gather information that will reflect teens’ interests so that programming initiatives can be centered around the data. “Teen Opinions Count” is the message that is being broadcasted. Along with responses from teens, parents, caregivers, educators and local youth leaders are also being asked to submit their feedback.

“We want to empower teens to use their voices to create change in their communities, and it starts by spending 10 to 15 minutes online to share their unique ideas and opinions about how they’d like to use their time outside of school,” said Amber Slichta, vice president of programs, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “Many school districts that we’re working with across Western New York and Southeast Michigan have already received their toolkits to begin the process, and we encourage all schools and youth organizations in eligible counties to get involved. Ultimately, through this research, our hope is to make strategic, impactful investments in areas that teens value.”

“Teen Opinions Count is the largest group concept mapping project to-date. We’ve received tremendous feedback so far and we look forward to growing this opportunity to additional Western New York and Southeast Michigan communities,” said Dr. Scott Rosas, director of research and evaluation at Concept Systems, Inc. “In addition to uncovering valuable information to help guide the investment from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the process is fun and engaging. It encourages creative and critical thinking, which are important skills for developing young minds, and will be a great exercise for adults as well.”

The information is being gathered via an online portal using a process called “group concept mapping” (GCM), implemented by Concept Systems, Inc. GCM is a tool that helps gather and organize ideas into themes to identify common interests. The two-step online project will collect and analyze data over the coming months, with initial results to be shared by June 2019.

Teens, parents and caretakers can participate in Teen Opinions Count and share their ideas about what teens are interested in when they’re not in school by visiting

Educators and youth organization leaders interested in receiving Teen Opinions Count toolkits to  support youth participation  in their area  can contact Megan Barber at

Additional information about the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s commitment to Western New York and Southeast Michigan communities is available at

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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