A survey of youths, who reside in Schuylkill County, shows only 17 percent plan to live in the county, 55 percent stated they planned to live elsewhere as an adult, and 28 percent were undecided.
This presents a challenge to the Schuylkill County Commissioners and for businesses and industries in the county whose goal is to keep the youth in the county as was the purpose of the youth summit held earlier this year at the courthouse in Pottsville.
The survey, prepared by Schuylkill County Vision and was released by the commissioners at a press conference held Thursday afternoon in the commissioners' board room at the courthouse.
Commissioner George Halcovage took an optimistic view of the results pointing out, "that the grass looks greener in other areas until they experience it and find it is no greener than from where they came."
He and Commissioner Gary Hess, who was the force behind initiating the first youth summit which was held last March, were very enthused with the responses of the students to a series of questions.
The survey was conducted among students in grades nine to 12. All public high schools in the county plus two Catholic high schools, a charter school, and two vocational tech schools participated. The summary of the surveys were as follows:
Ÿ Like living in Schuylkill County: 42 percent stated they liked living in the county, 24 percent said they do not and 34 percent were undecided.
Ÿ I plan to live in Schuylkill County as an adult: 17 percent stated they plan to live in the county, 55 percent stated they did not and 28 percent were undecided.
Ÿ Schuylkill County is a good place to raise a family: 34 percent stated it is a good place, 29 percent said it was not and 37 percent were undecided.
Ÿ I know where to get help to start a business: 15 percent said they knew, 63 percent said they did not know and 22 percent were unsure.
Ÿ I know where to get help finding a job in Schuylkill County: 31 percent said they did know, 41 percent said they did not know and 27 percent were undecided. (A plan is being prepared by the Schuylkill County Industrial Development Authority to provide each school with a list of work places).
Ÿ I believe there are sufficient job opportunities in Schuylkill County for me: 20 percent said they believed there were sufficient job opportunities for them in the county, 49 percent didn't believe it and 31 percent were undecided.
Ÿ What are the three most important things you will look for in the place where you will decide to live?: Quality of life (including issues like good communities, friendly people, a peaceful environment, etc.); second important reason, jobs; and third, safety, (including concerns for low crime, drugs and driving while drunk).
Ÿ What makes you proudest of Schuylkill County?: The communities in which they live (including the friendliness of the people and the way the communities come together to help anyone in need); and also they are proud of the schools they attend.
Ÿ What are three of the most important things Schuylkill County would have to change to be a better place for young people and young families?: More activities ranked first, which was a surprise to the commissioners, followed by increase in public safety, another surprise and ranking third was good jobs.
Ÿ Do you have any solutions for any of the problems you see in Schuylkill County?: The students' answers were very diverse with no overriding specific answers, which included improving public safety, increasing available activities and cleaning up towns and the environment.
The commissioners were very impressed with the response of the students.
Hess commented the purpose of the survey was to find out what the young are looking for and to help businesses, school officials and community officials to find out what is needed to keep the youth to remain in their home environment.
He added that their comments are important in shaping the formula for the future.
"We want our children to be successful so they grow up becoming fantastic leaders in our communities. From the survey we realize there are a lot of issues facing the county and we will work toward achieving the goals spelled out by the students," he said.
Halcovage said the survey pumped new adrenaline into his body as he was getting a wonderful response from the students who have found an avenue where they can express their concerns and where their ideas are now heard and acted upon.
He commented that the youth were extremely important to the communities in the county and that they are very proud of them. Halcovage said since the summit, youths now seek them out to express their opinion, their needs and offer proposed projects.
Halcovage mentioned that at the summit students expressed concerns about being unable to find places to congregate, such as a coffee shop, a gym open for games, and the problem with transportation, as they still can't have a license to drive and find the only place to "hang out" are on street corners.
Kay Jones, of Visions, was pleased with the response received from the school superintendents for the summit and also the great interest shown by business people and elected community officials.
She also said the survey will be presented and discussed in a number of venues this fall. It will also presented to all the schools, the chamber of commerce, various governmental units and other forums.