Hillsboro-based Northern Lights Youth Services has launched an online hub for positive teen messaging.
On Wednesday, Lee Erickson, executive director of NLYS, announced the beginning of Northern Lights Pulse, a website that addresses issues such as body image, friendships and resiliency.
The new site, nlpulse.com, will feature testimonies from motivational speakers, faith leaders, health professionals and teenagers who want to make a difference in the lives of young people.
“We wanted to build a youth-friendly service that all young people can access 24/7, year-round,” Erickson said. “Our theme is ‘Helping teens better understand themselves, others and the world in which they live.’”
Erickson is no stranger to youth issues across the state.
In 1994, he became the adviser for Hillsboro’s SADD – then Students Against Drunk Driving – organization.
In 1997, the national SADD organization changed its name to Students Against Destructive Decisions in an attempt to broaden its scope to address drug use and traffic safety issues.
Erickson became North Dakota’s coordinator for SADD in 1999 and took over operations in Minnesota and South Dakota more than 10 years ago.
Under the umbrella of Northern Lights SADD, he’s run the organization’s efforts in the three states,
However, while the national SADD organization has kept its focus on alcohol, drug and traffic safety over the past two decades, Erickson said the issues facing teenagers – and how they interact with the world – have evolved during that time.
“We have always tried to address the whole person,” he said.
“We felt that if we can make kids feel good about themselves and accept themselves for who they are, they are more likely to make good decisions.”
Northern Lights Pulse, which debuted Wednesday with 10 podcasts and links to videos, articles, websites and blog posts, will develop local content to engage young people across the nation.
In years past, Erickson said much of NLYS’s messaging was only reaching students who were in SADD chapters or had access to SADD in their communities.
The mobile platform will work to reach more students.
“I have received countless calls and emails from students and parents telling me about an important issue going on in their lives, hoping to get a chapter started at their schools,” Erickson said. “Those things haunt me.”
The site’s primary operator is Buxton native Peter Dux, who was involved in SADD as a state leader in the organization while attending Central Valley School.
Dux curates Northern Lights Pulse, featuring articles that address eight areas of focus, including establishing a purpose, lifestyle choices, finding positive adults, accepting oneself, friendships, bouncing back from adversity, building empathy and making a difference.
Erickson said that the Pulse effort also looks to establish local advisory groups of adult and youth leaders to create a dialog of issues facing communities.
He’s looking for local student and adult volunteers to serve as an advisory committee for the Hillsboro Pulse effort.
“Let’s have periodic conversations about what’s going on in kids’ lives and react accordingly,” Erickson said. “Maybe there’s an important issue that needs to be addressed.”
Erickson said NLYS is seeking funding to develop a mobile app young people can download onto their phone to access Northern Lights Pulse content.
For now, the website will be continually updated with input from its audience.
“We always want to be responsive to our youthful audience,” Erickson added.
“We see this as a tool that all young people can utilize.”