Back in 2006: Healthy Communities Coalition

Building Healthy Communities for Positive Youth Development, 1st Edition., 2010, 240 pages.

Northwestern Nevada – Way back in 2006, researchers from Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania spent time in communities in Lyon and Storey Counties, preparing to write a book describing the work of 8 groups across the U.S. that had been especially creative in supporting the unique strengths and needs of each of their community’s youth.

The book, Building Healthy Communities for Positive Youth Development by Michael J. Nakkula, Karen C. Foster, Marc Mannes and Shenita Bolstrom, devotes a chapter called “The Next New Frontier” to the work of Healthy Communities Coalition, praising the coalition’s “adroit leadership” and noting that the “complexity of this coalition is a testament to the leaders’ fierce respect for the identities forged by each of” the unique towns in Lyon and Storey counties. They went on to say, “We saw more authentic youth involvement in Healthy Communities Coalition than perhaps any of the other 7 initiatives in our study.” (page 173).

The authors, who conducted extensive on-site interviews in several Lyon and Storey towns in 2006, wrote that,  “In many respects, Healthy Communities Coalition (HCC) is a stunning illustration of the collaborative ethos and grassroots organization characteristic of the rural initiatives in the communities we studied. For sparsely populated communities, separated by vast distances, collaboration is a necessity for accessing a range of services and youth development opportunities….The leadership of HCC has engaged the 6 different towns and their surrounding communities across northern Nevada into a partnership of some 250 members actively mobilized on behalf of strength-based work supporting youth and the health of the community more generally… HCC is unique in our study of Developmental Assets work for its focus on support and preservation of the natural environment….”

Christy McGill, director of Healthy Communities Coalition, stressed that “Coalitions are only as strong as the partners willing to collaborate and we are blessed with an active membership of community volunteers and diverse groups that meet monthly to discuss how best to support the health and well being of our communities.”

The authors of the book include:

Michael J. Nakkula, Ed.D., a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education who teaches courses on adolescent development and the intersection of counseling, mentoring, and education within public schools. Previously, he was the longtime co-director of Harvard’s Risk and Prevention master’s program where he designed and studied a number of initiatives that support the developmental opportunities for low-income youth.

Karen C. Foster, Ed.D., a former research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has spent the past four years as an external evaluator and consultant to the Ohio Board of Regents studying the impact of a state wide initiative to improve the quality of science and mathematics teacher education in the public schools.

Marc Mannes, Ph.D., who currently leads the Chicago office of Booz Allen Hamilton. Mannes spent a decade as director of applied research at Search Institute, where he oversaw the organization’s community research agenda and the extension of the Developmental Assets Frameworks to children.

Shenita Bolstrom, MS, a clinical research associate in the Neuromodulation business at Medtronic, Inc. Prior to joining Medtronic, Inc., she was field research coordinator at Search Institute, where she worked on research projects in the areas of community and social change, families and parenting, and youth development programs and practices.

Their book, Building Healthy Communities for Positive Youth Development, is available online at


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