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Members of religious congregations who work with youths believe they are failing to achieve many of their most important goals, a new survey concludes.

The Search Institute, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit group focusing on child and youth issues, surveyed 527 religious youth workers from a wide range of faith traditions, including Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. It found that there was widespread agreement on their goals. Eight of the top 10 goals cited were such nonsectarian issues as encouraging self-respect and dignity, serving youths at risk in the community, and helping youths build caring relationships with adults.

Nearly 65 percent of those surveyed felt they were providing safe havens for youths, but only 9 percent said they were achieving their goal of working with at-risk youths. Similarly, fewer than 25 percent believed they were helping young people develop values and life skills.

The survey found that youth workers had great trouble keeping students of high school age in their programs. Those that were most successful offered the adolescents service opportunities.

More information is available from the Search Institute at (800) 888-7828.

The University of Maryland in College Park has launched a large-scale study to determine whether efforts to bring social services into schools work to improve student achievement.

Researchers from the university's college of education are working with educators in the Montgomery County, Md., public schools on the four-year study. It is financed by a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The researchers will study the county's Linkages to Learning program, under which students at four county elementary schools receive a range of health and social services, including help for their families in resolving problems with housing, food, employment, and health and mental-health care.

While anecdotal evidence supports the idea that providing these services helps students achieve, few data are currently available to support that assertion, says Jennifer Oppenheim, the project's director.

More information on the study is available from Oppenheim at (301) 405-2816 or jenn@umdd.umd.edu.

The Coalition on Educational Initiatives has named eight winners of its annual Community Solutions for Education award.

Now in its third year, the program is designed to promote community involvement in education. It recognizes outstanding grassroots programs that provide learning opportunities through community involvement.

This year, for the first time, the program is also recognizing programs that promote safety, nonviolence, and discipline.

The winners in the first category are School to Work, Dade County, Fla.; the Answer Machine, Decatur and Macon counties, Ill.; Omaha Work Keys, Omaha, Neb.; and Project Serve, Hickory, N.C.

The winners in the second category are the 4-H After School Program, Los Angeles County; Proud Partnership Projects, Miami; the Life Center/College of Santa Fe/Carino Collaborative for Gang Prevention, Santa Fe, N.M.; and Right Moves for Youth, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.

The coalition is a partnership of USA Today newspaper and various corporate sponsors. It underwrites special feature articles on education that appear in USA Today.

The winning programs will be included in a resource guide made available to communities nationwide.

For more information, call Steven Anderson, the newspaper's director of media relations, at (703) 276-5872.

--Gregory Byrne

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