For seniors in Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program (TLP), last Friday night was more than just the beginning of another weekend.
Instead, it marked their graduation from TLP and the beginning of their journey into higher education. The attending teens were all high school seniors, and their TLP graduation was concurrent to their high school graduation. Through TLP, these graduates possess knowledge of inestimable value: that, with the right resources and support, they are capable of achieving success well beyond the classroom.
Tim Kjellesvik addresses the crowd of teens and parents
Only five years ago these teens may have claimed that the thought of attending college was only a dream. Coming from economically disadvantaged communities and facing the uncertainty of lower life opportunities, these students—though bright and full of leadership potential—were at risk of continuing in a cycle of poverty that their circumstances often dictate.
But, in 7th grade, they were nominated for TLP; then, after submitting an application and participating in an interview, they became part of a program that focuses on building leadership abilities while exposing teens to the resources they need to be successful in life.
Now, five years later, they must say goodbye to one another as each and every one of them graduate high school and continue onto higher education. These seniors are on their way to colleges like Truman, SLU and Washington University, as well as other institutions across the nation.
This exemplary record of high school graduation contrasts sharply with the average graduation rates of 82% in the teens’ schools last year. The difference is a tribute to the effectiveness of the supports provided through TLP.
“Anyone that is part of [Wyman] has, in some shape or form, helped me to become who I am today,” Jarrid Snyder, a senior, reflects. “[They] motivated me and got me where I am today.”
The Teen Leadership Program was established in 2004, after Wyman narrowed its focus on preparing teens from disadvantaged communities with the supports and opportunities they need to succeed in life. The first intensive residential experience occurred that summer, and the program—then only five years—expanded to a seven year college persistence program in 2011.
The additional two years are designed to address the financial, psychological, and institutional stress students are exposed to in their freshman and sophomore years—three crucial areas which account for up to 75% of a student’s decision to leave college.
Tim Kjellesvik, the TLP Director, has been with Wyman since the program’s inception, and is excited to see this graduating class—the first one to be a part of the college persistence program—continue in the program as they leave for college.
“Through the program, we can continue to support and encourage our teens as they make decisions to achieve the future they want for themselves,” he said. “This celebration is just the beginning for them.”
Please join us in congratulating our teens; through the month of May, we plan to highlight each senior on our Facebook page!