National Network Partner Spotlight: Hope for Miami

Hope for Miami is a coalition of several organizations in Miami-Dade County working  to connect youth to effective programs, resources and volunteer opportunities, with the mission of seeing the young people and the community will thrive. For three years, Hope for Miami has delivered the Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) as one of four prevention programs that promote positive youth development and reflect the coalition’s core values.

TOP is in alignment with one of the coalition’s core values that youth work should not patronize. They have observed that allowing teens’ voices to be heard prevents a multitude of destructive behaviors.

“TOP allows our students to explore their thought processes in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Students express their views and think through their choices, allowing them to step back and see the many different possible outcomes that their decisions can bring. Teachers and principals have commented on what a difference the curriculum has made. They have seen the number of in school fights decrease, grades improve, and suspension rates decrease among TOP students,” said Chedena Hayes, Community Program Coordinator. “One of our teens shared that the program helps him to ‘know what to do in a real world setting.'”

This year, Hope for Miami plans to deliver TOP to 1,150 middle and high school youth in Miami-Dade County. Clubs are currently running at Andover Middle School and iMater Academy; however, they have received such positive feedback from the community that requests are coming in from all over Miami-Dade County for TOP to be brought to their schools. “I think that these requests speak to the professionalism of our facilitators and the effectiveness of the TOP Curriculum,” said Hayes.

Hayes attributes a large part of the program’s success to community service learning projects. She stated that the projects give students a chance to identify passions and gives them the opportunity to become involved in creating solutions to issues particular to their community. Most recently, students from Andover Middle did a school campus make-over project.

“Students spent months planning designs for a mural, choosing the garden location, and creating slogans and designs for trash cans. Then they showed up in great numbers to clean and decorate their campus. It was amazing. There was a need, and the students chose to meet it!  The youth were actually smiling while picking up trash.  As facilitators, we encouraged them by reminding them that Andover was their school, which made it their responsibility to preserve the grounds. We challenged them to leave a legacy for the classes that would come after them, and they did. That campus looks amazing now!”

Through programs like TOP, Hope for Miami would like to see their Miami-Dade County community become a place where everyone – individuals, families, neighborhoods, institutions, organizations, businesses and even the environment – is knit together like threads in a tapestry to create healthy, flourishing neighborhoods.

Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program Celebrates Senior Class

Blog post by Bryan Capers, College and Community Program Manager for Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program.

On Friday, April 18th, more than seventy supporters of Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program (TLP) came together to celebrate the high school graduations and accomplishments of our TLP seniors.


Missouri State Scholarship recipients Alexis Creamer and Jalen Baker pictured with TLP Director Tim Kjellesvik

Thirty of the 63 graduates joined us with their families to eat a hearty meal, receive certificates of recognition and hear words of encouragement from Wyman’s President and CEO, Dave Hilliard.

One of the highlights of the night was “counting coup,” a traditional TLP observation when participants share their accounts of the program’s impact on their lives, families and communities at large.

The ceremony also included presentations from Jalen Baker and Alexis Creamer, two full-ride scholarship recipients in Wyman’s Scholars program. Baker and Creamer each received a four-year scholarship to Missouri State University.

scholarshipIn addition, each year the Saigh Foundation provides a $1,000 scholarship to a Wyman teen who is committed to community service, has exhibited outstanding academic achievement and demonstrates leadership and active participation in Wyman’s TLP. Andre Block Jr. was awarded the $1,000 Saigh Young Leader Award.

After high school graduation, our teens will transition into Wyman’s College Persistence Program, the final two years of the program. During these two years, they will receive continued social, emotional and institutional support from Wyman.

Much success to our seniors as they transition into their post-secondary endeavors!
Class of 2014 teens_1

How to Navigate the FAFSA

DeathtoStock_Wired2We’re a week into January, which means it’s the perfect time for college-bound high school seniors to fill out the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is a great way for students to gain access to funding for their education. Before the stressors of this school semester begin, use the slower period (and snow days!) in January to gather the information you will need to fill out the application. Also, be sure to review the following tips, insights and resources before submitting an application.

Early is best. The FAFSA for the 2014-2015 school year opened on January 1, 2014.  It’s vital that you submit an application as close to this date as possible because some federal and state aid will be distributed on a first come, first served basis. Remember to keep in mind the federal, state and college deadlines that could impact your application. For Missouri, the state deadline is April 1, but college deadlines will vary by institution.

No matter what your situation, fill one out. For most students, the FAFSA is the gateway to all money for college. A student is unable to receive any grants, work-study placements or loans without first filling out and submitting a FAFSA.

Beware of FAFSA scams. The most important thing to remember about the FAFSA is that it is free! No one needs to pay to submit an application or to receive help to complete one. In fact, most communities offer resources for families to use throughout the application process. The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis always offers FAFSA workshops and completion clinics to assist with their application. Review their calendar for a FAFSA help event that works best with your schedule. The Missouri Department of Higher Education also offers FAFSA frenzy sites throughout Missouri to help with FAFSA completion.

The previous year’s tax form still counts. Students can submit a FAFSA even if their family still needs to file their most recent taxes. Previous year’s tax forms are accepted on the application, however it’s very important that the FAFSA form is updated once the most recent year’s taxes are submitted. By submitting the FAFSA early and making changes to the tax information later, students are able to reserve their position in line for funding.

Have additional questions about filling out your FAFSA? Check out St. Louis Graduates for additional resources, review our past FAFSA-related articles or email your questions to

Interactive Site Teaches Students About “Body and Mind”

Bam! Body and MindBAM! Body and Mind is an interactive website for young people, ages 9-13, that  provides extensive games and interactive tools to learn about health, diseases, physical activity, and more. Created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BAM! gives young people the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Based on feedback from young people themselves, the site focuses on topics such as dealing with stress, physical fitness, safety, and nutrition in a fun and interactive website filled with quizzes and games.

For example, the “Food and Nutrition”section gives students advice about smart food choices and ways to stay powered up for an active life. This section is loaded with delicious recipes and easy-to-grab snack ideas. The “Your Life” section offers suggestions on learning how to handle stress, bullying, peer pressure, anger, and more. Features include the Ad Decoder, which help kids uncover the false messages behind ads that target them.

In addition to engaging young people on their own, BAM! also serves as an aid to teachers and youth professionals with the “Teacher’s Corner,” providing interactive, educational, and fun activities that are linked to national education standards for science and health.

Visit the CDC website to learn more!

Introducing Kicker: An Engaging News Site for Teens

This guest post is written by Holly Epstein Ojalvo, founder and editor in chief of Kicker, which engages millennials in current events and social action.

Kicker ( often say they want to make a difference and change the world. Yet few regularly follow the news. I think there’s a big disconnect there. How can you solve the world’s problems if you don’t know what they are?

Studies show many teens say news often makes them feel overwhelmed, confused, bored, and helpless. But what if news were presented in a way that solved those problems?

That question drove me to create Kicker, a resource to make news accessible, engaging, and actionable for teens and young adults.

On Kicker, we provide a limited number of stories, not endless updates. Each one lays out the context and the big picture – infused with compelling multimedia, like photos, videos, and tweets – in digestible, relatable ways. We also clearly explain why the story is important or even relevant to your life. And we suggest ways to take action, ranging from signing petitions to volunteering your time.

Perhaps most important of all, on Kicker we show you why “news” is really just another way of saying “life.” After all, any issue you care about – from global warming to gay rights to exploitation – is covered in the news.

We cover a wide range of events and issues, from the civil war in Syria and anti-government protests in Egypt, Turkey, and Brazil to the controversy over the Trayvon Martin case to media and tech developments like Instagram Video and Vine. And if you want to dive in deeper, just follow the links we provide.

“Before I found Kicker, I used to say that I hated news.” This is just one of many messages we’ve received from teen and young adult readers who are getting in the know with Kicker. I hope you’ll check it out and start getting up to speed so you can start making your voice heard and making a difference. Know, then go!


Holly is the founder and editor in chief of Kicker, which engages millennials in current events and social action. Previously, she was deputy editor for The New York Times Learning Network, which provides teaching and learning materials based on Times content. For more than a decade Holly was an award-winning English, journalism, and philosophy teacher at public and private high schools. Holly received her B.A. in English from Lafayette College, an M.A. in English from the University of Delaware, and an M.A. in English education from NYU. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. with her husband, daughter, and cat.

The Saint Louis Art Museum’s Teen Arts Council


After the success of its first year, The Saint Louis Art Museum’s application for the 2013-2014 Teen Arts Council is open! If you are passionate about art, this is a great opportunity to get involved and take a leadership role in the St. Louis art community.

The Teen Arts Council (TAC) is built upon the philosophy that teens themselves should be integral to the design and implementation of teen programming at the Museum. Through various classes and workshops both at the Museum and in the community, TAC aims to inspire teens to become professional artists, arts administrators, arts educators and lifelong arts patrons. In addition to classes and workshops, TAC plans social and community events to cultivate the Museum’s teen audience.


Last year, The 2013 Young Artists’ Exhibition was organized and presented by the Saint Louis Art Museum Teen Arts Council. This exhibition featured the work of area teen artists and was on display for two weeks at the Tavern of Fine Arts!


  • Application Deadline is Sunday, August 18th, 2013.
  • The Teen Arts Council will meet from late August 2013 until early May 2014.
  • Meetings are the first three Wednesdays of the month, excluding holidays, Museum closures, and special events.
  • Meetings are after school from 4:30pm-6:30pm at the Saint Louis Art Museum and include snacks.
  • Teen Arts Council special events will take place on Friday evenings or Saturdays during the day. TAC will plan 6-8 special events this school year.
  • Students grades 9-12.


The mission of TAC is to be active and visible in both the Museum and in the greater Saint Louis Community. By building relationships with local businesses and organizations, Council Members are also exposed to community entrepreneurs and artists.

July 18th is Mandela Day

Mandela Day“Following the success of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park in June 2008, it was decided that there could be nothing more fitting than to celebrate Mr. Mandela’s birthday each year with a day dedicated to his life’s work and that of his charitable organizations, and to ensure that his legacy continues forever.

The Mandela Day campaign message is simple: Mr. Mandela gave 67 years of his life fighting for the rights of humanity. All we are asking is that everyone gives 67 minutes of their time, whether it’s supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community.”

Mandela Day is a call to action for people everywhere to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place. Visit their website, join them on Facebook, and take a look at some of the ways you can celebrate Mandela Day.

Become a Mandela Day Changemaker in your own community!

Mandela Day is the initiative of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and its sister organizations, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

JUNE 21: Join United Way and Google for Day of Action

Do you care about education? On Friday, June 21, United Way is partnering with Google to host The 21, a 21-hour broadcast of live programming in support of worldwide education!

Starting at 3 a.m. ET, the first of its kind event will feature celebrities from the sports world, entertainment, leaders in the education field, and also everyday heroes who are making a difference in their communities through education, broadcasted through Google Hangout. The programming will be a mix of town hall style community conversations about volunteering and education, with a goal to recruit 21,000 people to pledge to become volunteer readers, tutors or mentors.

Check out The 21 schedule and tune in!

One highlight of the event will be Making a Difference During Your Lunch Hour, a panel discussion with major advocacy and volunteer organizations about how people can help improve their communities during lunchtime.

The panelists will be Alison Waldman of, Matthew Slutsky of and Farah Sheikh of

The 21 is part of United Way’s Day of Action, an annual event on June 21 of each year where United Ways throughout the world harness their power to positively change communities. On the ground Day of Action volunteer events will be held in communities across the country and around the world.

What Does ‘Readiness’ Mean? : Live Chat with Forum CEO Karen Pittman

logo_0On May 16th, Forum CEO Karen Pittman will host a live radio conversation tonight about what it means for young people to be ready for college, work and life! She will be the guest on Real Talk for Teens, a call-in program for young people that airs on BlogTalkRadio. Pittman will speak and take calls about what teens are doing to ensure that they are ready; what teens need from the people and institutions in their lives; and why businesses, colleges and young people themselves say that so many teens are not ready.

Tune in tonight at 7 pm.. ET. Click here to listen live or hear the recording!!!