Share Positive Stories About Teens

Help Change the Conversation about Teens

Wyman teens took to the streets of their neighborhood to share positive messages about causes they care about. Sharing positive stories about youth can contribute to their positive development.

At the Regional Youth Violence Prevention forum, teens from across the community shared their insights on what would make a difference in reducing violence in St. Louis. One unanimous request from teens:

“Validate what we do well, and share positive stories about teens.”

Their words echo the research, and ring true in every community. Holding and supporting young people to high expectations is a powerful and necessary contributor to their positive development, while low expectations and assumptions are leading risk factors for negative behavior. In other words, consistent and negative press and discussions about teenagers will only exacerbate the problem.

Together, let’s change the conversation! At Wyman, we personally know hundreds of young people in St. Louis, who are doing great things for themselves and their communities. We know tens of thousands of teens across the country in Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) that are rising above their circumstances and achieving some truly amazing things:

In recent weeks, a group of teens in Wyman’s TOP® spent a day with children in a local day care, leading them in activities, singing songs, playing games, and being great mentors and role models. Meanwhile, their classmates were busy preparing for an upcoming service project, in which they’ll conduct conservation projects with grade school students.

Another group provided structured activities and lots of Valentine’s Day fun for students at an early childhood education center while parents participated in the school’s PTO meeting. Their consistency in volunteering to provide childcare at this school has significantly increased parent participation in PTO meetings!

We’re immensely proud of the contributions and success of Wyman teens. And like these young people, many others are being productive, giving back, and are positively engaged in their communities.

Do you know someone who needs to hear about the great contributions teens make in our community?  Please pass this along, or share another positive story about a teen you know!

Email it to us, share it on our Facebook page or tweet it using #realteens!

Together, we can support and encourage teens to make a real difference, and it can start by acknowledging and rewarding their success

Invest in Youth from Cradle to Career

A report released by America’s Promise Alliance entitled “Every Child, Every Promise: Turning Failure into Action” presents a compelling case that once you start investing in a child’s life, you shouldn’t stop!

Every Child Every Promise - Full Report_Page_01Using research from economists James Heckman and Flavio Cunha, the report cites that investing in a young person’s childhood is important, but we must continue to invest in children throughout adolescence to see the greatest return academically, socially and economically. “Long term success will likely fall well short of expectations without continued investment throughout elementary and teenage years,” Wyman’s President/CEO Dave Hilliard said.

The research suggests that cognitive and non-cognitive skills are very important to lead a successful life. While cognitive learning is developed in early childhood, non-cognitive skills are not defined until teenage years. As both these skills contribute to higher achievement, it is imperative that investment is made throughout both stages of life.

Among disadvantaged populations particularly, their simulations show insufficient investments after early childhood, would lead to only 41% graduating high school, fewer than 5% attending college, more that 40% incurring criminal records and almost 20% receiving welfare. Conversely, with continued investment through high school, 85% would graduate high school, college going would increase to 27% and welfare dependency would drop by half.  Investing longer-time in a child is beneficial for our society as a whole.

Reliable, cost-effective investments in children and youth are necessary to keep America competitive in a global economy. We must cultivate a better prepared workforce with the necessary skills to be competitive. To secure our nation’s quality of life and economic vitality, we must establish policies and invest in the necessary supports and opportunities for all young people from cradle to career.

American Graduate: Tune In and Share Your Story

American GraduateIn March, two documentaries will be broadcast on Nine PBS that focus on some of the most difficult aspects of the nation’s dropout crisis: under-performing schools and at-risk youth.The pair of documentaries will be presented as part of the American Graduate Initiative.

180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School follows a District of Columbia high school that is struggling to adequately prepare students in the areas of math and reading. The two-part film will air at 8 PM CT March 25th and 26th on Nine PBS.  Follow the link for more information on the film, as well as video clips.

Tavis Smiley Reports: Education Under Arrest examines efforts to reform the juvenile justice system and keep at-risk teens in school. Education Under Arrest is a follow-up to Smiley’s Too Important to Fail documentary, which investigated the causes of the rising dropout rate among African-American male teenagers. This one-hour program airs at 8 PM CT, March 26th on Nine PBS. Follow the link for a preview and more information on the program.

Nine PBS invites you to tune in and share your story. Your story could inspire a student to stay in school. Tell us what education has meant to you.

#BarackTalk: State of the Union for Youth

On Tuesday, February 12th, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union Address (SOTU), where he will outline his legislative agenda around a variety of issues – issues like climate change, education, marriage equality and immigration reform – issues that affect you, and your future.

That same day, youth leaders head to Washington, D.C. to set the tone for the president’s State of the Union address. #BarackTalk, an interactive State of the Union watch party and online discussion, will broadcast live on Ustream from the heart of the nation’s capital.

How can you participate?

“Millions of Americans will watch online as President Obama delivers his fourth State of the Union Address,” Biko Baker, Executive Director of the League of Young Voters, said. “We’re harnessing cutting-edge streaming technology to let people nationwide talk back in real time.”

The League of Young Voters is hosting the largest interactive watch-party featuring special guest speakers, including hip-hop artists, community leaders and respected journalists. #BarackTalk is an open forum for youth activists and citizens to address the most important political topics of 2013, and it gives YOU, the young people of America, the chance to have your voice be heard – loud and clear.

Host a watch party with your friends, tune in to the livestream all day on Tuesday, and join the conversation on Twitter with #BarackTalk. Let your voice be heard!

Local Teens Speak Up About Violence

Last Saturday morning, Wyman teens joined their peers and local community leaders in a conversation on youth violence in the St. Louis region to help advance a strategy for prevention.

Wyman teens at youth violence prevention forum

Wyman teens voiced their concerns at the community conversation on youth violence prevention. They are pictured here with University City Mayor Shelley Welsch.

Brought together by the Regional Youth Violence Prevention Task Force, youth and community leaders from across the human service, law enforcement, juvenile justice, and public service sectors engaged in a conversation around a variety of solutions for youth violence ranging from prevention, enforcement, treatment, and re-entry.

Panelists spoke on issues related to violence, including two young adults who were previously involved with justice issues. A third speaker was a mother who lost a son to violence, and a fourth was a trauma doctor at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. All expressed frustration at the impact of violence in the St. Louis community and emphasized the need for a collective and coordinated approach to solving the problem.

Of particular importance to the organizers was elevating the youth voice as part of the conversation, and part of the solution.

The youth participated in small focus groups, discussing their perceptions on violence in the community, as well as their perspectives on solutions and their hope for the future.  At the end, the students presented the focus of their discussion back to the adults. Common themes from the youth presentations included:

  • the need for adults to share their time, to really listen and not judge;
  • the power of adults validating their strengths;
  • the desire for a more positive relationship with law enforcement;
  • opportunities to volunteer; and
  • the need to see more positive stories about youth in the media.

As Wyman staff processed the experience with teens afterwards, they said they enjoyed the opportunity to be with and among adults for this type of experience, and felt like their voices were important and valued. They report looking forward to continuing to be involved in the conversation and the solution!

To begin progress around this issue, the task force is developing of a regional summer youth employment program to provide St. Louis City youth the opportunity to secure meaningful summer employment to advance workplace and pro-social skills and to be exposed to positive adult relationships.

Learn more about the community conversation from coverage on Fox 2 News and the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Special thanks to the co-chairs of the St. Louis Regional Youth Violence Prevention (YVP) Task Force – Bridget Flood of the Incarnate Word Foundation, Starsky Wilson of the Deaconess Foundation and Matt Kuhlenbeck of the Missouri Foundation for Health for hosting the community planning forum.

Wyman Included in Index of Top Nonprofits

S&I 100Wyman Center was recently named one of America’s top-performing nonprofit organizations on a newly launched giving platform!

The Social Impact 100 (S&I 100) is the first-ever broad index of U.S. nonprofits that have evidence of results and the potential to grow. The Index helps these nonprofits find the capital they need to reach more people, and empowers donors to make a bigger difference.

Wyman is one of the 100 featured organizations on the index, in recognition of our work to develop a National Network of partners to help bring Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) into the lives of teens at such a scale that the nation’s youth and their communities are positively impacted by the program’s proven outcomes.

Covering 100 high-impact nonprofits and nearly 16,000 local affiliates that are implementing their solutions, the Index features nonprofits that address the country’s most pressing issues in education, health, youth and poverty. Each of the 100 organizations has been rigorously screened for proof of impact and is only included in the Index if it has the ability to serve more people in need.

When donors use the S&I100, they can search for high performing nonprofits in the issue areas and locations they care about and give directly to the organizations in a few quick and easy steps, making it easier for nonprofits like us to raise funds to grow our work.

We are proud to be selected as a featured organization on the S&I 100. See for yourself and then share the good news with others who are looking to give with impact.

To learn more, visit www.SI100.org

The Saigh Symposium on Teen Development

Karen Pittman Reed Larson youth development Allison WilliamsNearly 200 community leaders and youth practitioners from across St. Louis attended Wyman’s 2012 Saigh Symposium on Teen Development, featuring a practice-policy discussion with Dr. Reed Larson and Karen Pittman. Larson and Pittman covered recent research on teen development, and outlined a big picture approach to action planning and community change around positive outcomes for young people.  The event was graciously hosted by the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University.

“Under the right conditions, adolescents have enormous new potentials for advanced learning and development,” Larson said. “Our responsibility as a community is to consistently create places and spaces that support growth-focused opportunities for youth.”

Pittman noted that while policy is usually set to address a problem in communities, opportunities exist to focus policies on creating the right pipeline of supports that reinforce healthy, productive development.  “By leveraging power and aligning resources to invest in children we can secure their future and benefit the whole community.”

In response to an audience question, both Pittman and Larson explored the notion of duty in youth, and how it is a fading value in our communities. “Duty has become this negative word in our society…Instilling a sense of duty and responsibility—beyond academic expectations—in youth at a young age allows them to be active producers of their own development,” Larson said.

Thank you to all who participated in this conversation.  At Wyman, we believe that we are called as a community not only to create change for young people enrolled in individual programs—but rather to create true impact. In a time of increasing social change and often tightening resources, the stakes for our young people have never been higher, and the opportunity for impact and the consequences of failure never greater.   Let’s continue a productive community conversation about what it takes – from a policy and practice perspective – to build a community truly capable of enacting a vision of success for our young people.  And then let’s enact this vision.

View pictures from the event on Wyman’s Facebook page.
Listen to the podcast from The Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
Video footage of the Symposium available on Wyman’s YouTube page.

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The Saigh Symposium on Teen Development is presented by The Saigh Foundation in partnership with The Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

 

Help People. Give to the United Way.

United Way of Greater St. Louis focuses on helping many different people with many different needs. By partnering with nearly 200 local agencies, the United Way is able to positively impact one in three individuals in our region. Their donations serve our community as a whole and address both the known and unknown needs in our area.

Wyman Center has been a proud member of the United Way since its inception in St. Louis in 1922. Although a lot has changed since then, United Way’s partnership with Wyman and unwavering support for young people in Wyman’s programs has remained the same. Penny, a Wyman graduate and former staff member, is only one of thousands of Wyman teens, and a million St. Louis citizens, that benefit from United Way’s donations:

United Way relies on people like you to help build a better community, by helping people. To learn more about how you can invest in your community visit helpingpeople.org.

 

Teens Speak Up About Dropout Crisis

In partnership with the Nine Network and their national American Graduate initiative Wyman teens participated in a “Teen Town Hall” to discuss the high school drop-out crisis facing the St. Louis community and communities across the country.

Rising 8th, 9th, and 12th graders in Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program (TLP) spent well over an hour discussing what they see happening with high school drop-out in their schools and communities, why teens drop-out, and what can be done to address the situation. Teens discussed the role that all people play in helping curb this crisis – teens themselves, families, teachers, community organizations, and even community members and neighbors. We had many teens who spoke from their personal perspectives – as children of immigrants or other family members who did not finish high school – they see it as their responsibility to change this pattern, and become a role model and example for their siblings and others in their schools.

Teen Town Hall, Wyman Center, Kling Hall

When asked what can be done as a solution, there was such an interesting theme in their responses.  No one said they needed better buildings, better computers, or better books.  Their common response was that the solution was in relationships and support.

Teens need opportunities to be motivated, to see and understand why education is important, and to have adults in their lives who consistently remind them of that and support them in this process. Several teens also discussed the role that Wyman programs play in keeping teens motivated, connected, and successful. Their comments and reflections reinforced the very, very important work that we are doing at Wyman.

It was an honor for me to sit and listen to our young people discuss this topic. There was no complaining, blaming, or finger-pointing, but rather a discussion about what they really see happening, and how they can be part of a solution.

Special kudos to our TLP Director Tim Kjellesvik for brilliantly facilitating the conversation and the whole TLP team for pulling this off. Most importantly, thanks to our teen panelists who shared with honesty and integrity, as well as our audience members who had more to say than we could fit into the time allotted!

This experience was symbolic to me of the work our Wyman team does day in and day out to improve the odds for young people. We must listen to our young people, and engage them as part of the solution. They have much to add, they have important perspectives, and they must be involved in the change process. We have a myriad of ideas and programs and proposals about solutions – but the clear message from our teens is that all of that work floats on a base foundation of having supports and relationships, and people who set standards and expectations that they can achieve. Let’s be sure not to forget that critical, critical foundation.

If you want to learn more about the drop-out crisis, please visit www.americangraduate.org. Wyman is proud to be working with the local initiative to help our community recognize that this is an issue for us all.

Allison Williams, MSW, LCSW
Sr. VP, Wyman Center St. Louis

Get a glimpse of the live discussion by searching #TeenTownHall on Twitter.

See photos from the Teen Town Hall courtesy of Nine Network / Jason Winkeler Photography on our Facebook page.

Putting Your Best Face Forward Online

Likes, status updates, tweets, and friend requests: if you’re familiar with any of these terms then you—like most teenagers in America—are using social media. According to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 95 percent of US teens aged 12-17 are online and 80 percent of these connected teens use social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.woman using a computer

You probably cannot recall a time before the internet or social networking. Social media is the norm when it comes to sharing thoughts, opinions, pictures, videos and links with your friends.

But keep in mind; it’s not always just your friends who can see what you post!

College admissions counselors and employers are beginning to use social networking sites as a way to assess your communication skills, values, and personal life to see if you’ll be a good fit at their college or company. And, since privacy features on Facebook are constantly changing, your content may be visible for anyone to search and see. For both Twitter and Facebook, this means that your posts and pictures could show up when someone searches your name in Google.

Here’s the good news: you do have control over what you post. Be aware, take your time, use good judgment, and think before you make anything public. You are your own personal publicist, and have the power to mold your online presence to be a positive or negative one. Posting a negative comment about a teacher or school and uploading photos depicting questionable behavior will, ultimately, negatively impact how people perceive you. And unlike a comment said out loud, your activity on social media can live a long time, online.

Make some rules about what you’ll post online, and then actually follow them! Would you talk that way to a teacher? Show that picture to your aunt or uncle? Share that information with your boss? Social media is a place to have fun and interact with friends, but keep in mind the consequences of these actions in the offline world.

Think long-term when posting online content. What you put on the internet isn’t easily erased, and can remain attached to your name for years to come. Even if you plan to delete it later, someone else could re-tweet or share it, and then it is out of your control. If you have any uncertainty about what you’re about to post, then don’t do it!

Finally, use social media to your advantage. Deciding to use social networking sites is not a foolish choice. By remaining aware of your posts—and even what your friends are writing on your wall—you have the ability to put forth your best qualities. Tailoring your online presence in a way that represents yourself positively will give you a leg up on others by appealing to future employees and schools.

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We’d like to hear your thoughts about social media. Is it fair for employers and college admissions counselors to check applicants’ social media profiles, or should teens get a break? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.