National Network Spotlight: Community Action Corporation of South Texas

Certified Replication Partners in our National Network are successfully replicating Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) across the country. The National Network Spotlight highlights a partner and celebrates their positive outcomes.

Community Action Corporation of South Texas (CACOST) is a non-profit organization that aims to improve their region by providing high quality health care, education, employment and economic opportunities.

south texasCACOST implemented Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program (TOP®) in January 2013 in an effort to educate area teens about making healthy choices and leading successful lives. TOP® lessons were facilitated to 427 youth on a weekly basis in six school districts through the months of September 2013 to May 2014. Youth participants were engaged in numerous service learning projects during this period and completed a cumulative total of 2,957 community service hours during this time.

CACOST’S Youth Development Coordinator and Director April Anzaldua feels it was an awe-inspiring experience to see students discussing and expressing their perspective about issues teens are facing in school.

“TOP® lessons encourage youth to weigh their options based on the three C’s: Challenge, Choice and Consequences. Given a sense of responsibility, the teens became proactive in their decisions when it came to their day-to-day activities,” said Anzaldua.

One of the most meaningful parts of TOP® for these Texas TOP® teens was their involvement in Community Service Learning.  Youth participants were engaged in numerous service learning projects during this period and completed a cumulative total of 2,957 Community Service Learning hours.  Anzaldua shared the experience of one TOP® club’s Community Service Learning project, a community park revitalization project:

“The Teen Outreach Program® has influenced our teens by examining their individual conceptions of what a community service learning project is and reflecting their own ideas of a community service learning project that is outside the stereotypical clean-up. The teens in Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD decided that a park clean-up was not merely enough for their town. The teens had an inner passion and civic duty to revitalize their community park. With the guidance of the facilitators, the youth hosted teen dances and concession stands to raise money to purchase equipment for a volleyball court, set up a basketball hoop, and build picnic tables for their community. The Teen Outreach Program® offered the youth in the rural community of Ben Bolt to allow their voices to be heard and make a positive difference in their community.  The community park revitalization project created great enthusiasm and pride for the teens of Ben Bolt.  The teens felt a sense of accomplishment from start to finish.  From March 2013 to April 2014, what seemed like a dream at first became a reality for the teens on April 5, 2014, when the TOP® Club named ‘The Family’ came together with their community to celebrate their achievements.”


CACOST’s facilitators found that they have a lot to learn from the teens as well. Staff was able to get a first-hand perspective on the teens’ attitudes and learn more about the issues they face in their region.

The TOP® sessions were so successful for CACOST that they elected to continue the program at all existing sites as well as add a new school district in January 2014.  The addition of Mathis Independent School District means the program will reach 60 additional youth throughout rural South Texas.




Wyman Named SCE Partner

SCE mastheadWyman is pleased to announce that it was selected as one of eight nationwide organizations that will partner with the Susan Crown Exchange to be a part of their Social and Emotional Learning Challenge.

For the next 18 months, these eight informal learning programs for teens—ranging from a wooden boat building program in Philadelphia to a performing arts/community action hub in New York City to Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program—will explore best practices in social and emotional learning.

The initiative aims to elevate the importance of social and emotional learning through an intensive effort with a notable cohort of teen programs. The finalists were chosen from among 250 youth organizations, making this an exceptional group of youth programs that have shown striking results in their work.

The collaboration teams up SCE partners with a research team from the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, where they will look at and learn from the programs and then pass on results to youth organizations across the country. They will focus on identifying the best practices for equipping the young people with the social and emotional skills of resilience, empathy, agency, self-regulation and grit. The ultimate goal is to provide the next generation with the tools they need to thrive in the 21st century.

About SCE and the Social and Emotional Learning Challenge

SCE is a social investment organization that connects talent and innovation with market forces to drive social change. Their newly launched Social and Emotional Learning Program reimagines education as a broad and rich ecosystem for learning, anytime, anywhere.

The Social and Emotional Learning Challenge aims to distill and codify the practices of the SEL field’s best programs for teens to elevate the impact and importance of social and emotional learning.

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

National Network Spotlight: Colorado Youth Matter

Certified Replication Partners in our National Network are successfully replicating Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) across the country. The National Network Spotlight highlights a partner and celebrates their positive outcomes.

Colorado Youth Matter (CYM) initiated the Colorado Network for Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® in 2011 to make TOP® more accessible for organizations throughout Colorado. A state-wide organization committed to youth sexual health and access to opportunity for all young people, the organization now supports 23 TOP® clubs serving 350 youth in total. CYM plans to see TOP® continue to grow and reach more youth in need this year.

IMG_5681“TOP® helps our teens make better choices because it gives them two things: the knowledge needed to make informed decisions and the confidence in their own critical thinking to make decisions in their own best interest,” Stefanie Winfield, Colorado Youth Matter’s evaluation manager said.

According to CYM facilitators, the TOP® participants enjoy the emotional safety of club and appreciate feeling like their words have value. The teens experience empowerment from the knowledge they gain about healthy relationships, leadership and sexual health.

“I love that TOP® is a safe place for teens to express themselves. This freedom provides a unique opportunity for them to talk through who they are and what they stand for. Their “Ah-ha!” moments when they discover something new about themselves or see something from a new perspective is incredibly rewarding to witness,” one facilitator said.

For many facilitators in Colorado’s Youth Matter Network, one of the best things about TOP® is how easy the program is to implement. The curriculum allows facilitators to plan out three months in advance, as well as adapt their lessons to the language and experiences of the youth being served. This ease of implementation also permits flexibility in the recruiting process, opportunities for facilitators to offer incentives for club attendance and field trips similar to community service learning activities that engage young people who may possibly join TOP® in the future.

Colorado Youth Matter’s network partners have gained a lot from TOP®. Through TOP®, facilitators connect to and work with organizations in Colorado that are committed to providing positive youth development and community engagement across the state. By developing an encouraging rapport between the young people and their communities, TOP® also fosters hope and pride in communities across Colorado.

Implementing Collective Impact to Ensure Community Returns

Teen Leadership Program alumnaeAt a recent Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program alumni gathering, 21 young adults gathered to reminisce, laugh, share, and dine together. Over the course of an evening, they shared their journeys through college and even graduate school, their stories of persistence in spite of obstacles, their jobs and job searches, and their service to our country through the military. Throughout the conversations, each teen expressed goals that affirmed their commitment to and passion for service to others.

Each story of service was unique. One alum is preparing to volunteer for a service trip to New Orleans, where she will provide relief after Hurricane Karina. She had already provided support after Hurricane Sandy, and desires to continue to give back to hurricane-affected communities. Another alum is applying for Teach for America after college graduation, while a third is a Golden Apple Scholar in Illinois, and is dedicated to becoming a middle school math teacher for struggling schools. A fourth alum was selected to participate in a national leadership program in Washington DC, which has linked him to local and state policy efforts in Missouri. A fifth passionately continues to advance her career and studies in work with children and youth, as well as her poetry as a means of expression and sharing. And the list goes on and on.

In planning for their future, these alumni are wonderful examples of how, with proper supports, all young people can achieve success. Since 2002, Saint Louis
area community leaders, corporations, foundations, and the local United Way have invested in Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program teens. By working together to provide cross-functional supports, the providers in our community made intentional investments in the futures of these young people.

Because of these investments, each young person had supportive and caring adult relationships throughout his or her teen years, opportunities to learn how to successfully lead others, a sense of belonging with a positive peer group, a focus on their future and their abilities, challenging educational experiences, and the chance to give back in service to their community. And in return, they showed us what can happen. While their successes are each their own, they remind us that when communities make intentional, consistent investments in the growth and development of children and teens, good things happen. That is a return on investment we at Wyman are committed to pursuing, nationwide.


National Network Spotlight: Project Vida Health Center

Certified Replication Partners in our National Network are successfully replicating Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) across the country. The National Network Spotlight highlights a partner and celebrates their positive outcomes.

Deep in Texas, close to the Mexican border, young people ages 12 to 21 are developing exceptional characteristics as they realize that their opinions and experiences are valued in Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program®. Through Project Vida Health Center (PVHC), Wyman’s TOP® serves more than 200 teens, some of whom are first-time offenders. For them, TOP® is more than a program that provides valuable life skills and give them a desire to positively impact the world—it is a second chance at regaining the trust of their community.

Project Vida Health Center Staff

Project Vida Health Center Staff

“TOP® gives [young people] the opportunity to rejoin their community as caring, responsible teens,” Sandra Rodriguez, TOP® coordinator, said. “Our participants have expressed how much TOP® helps them to be a better person and teaches them to be grateful for the friendships they’ve established through their experiences.”

For PVHC and its teens, the real impact comes from the community service learning (CSL) component of TOP®. PVHC first became interested in offering TOP® because of the program’s incorporation and structure of CSL. After adopting TOP®, facilitators quickly noted how CSL projects have the power to fully engage young people and, in doing so, create a greater impact on their behavior and choices.

“The fact that teens have a choice and voice when selecting their projects makes a huge difference. Through CSL, the participants feel and see the impact their work is capable of generating. The most rewarding experience is seeing the glow on our teens’ faces after a CSL project is completed and they realize the difference they made,” added Rodriguez.

The CSL projects include canned food drives, toy drives, fundraisers to benefit animal shelters and children’s hospitals as well as outreach to support homeless children and immigrant youth. Through consistent recruitment efforts, PVHC facilitators and coordinators hope to expose more teens to TOP® and the benefits of CSL. Their recruitment efforts comprise of visiting schools, attending health fairs and distributing community flyers to reach more young people. PVHC also joined a local coalition to bring on additional partners and spread the word about the program. Through these efforts, PVHC will bring TOP® to many more teens in the El Paso, TX region throughout 2014.

Texas Department of State Health Services Joins Wyman’s National Network

Wyman’s National Network is excited to welcome its newest partner, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). DSHS is a state agency of Texas that works cross-functionally to provide state-operated health care services. As a new partner, DSHS plans to provide Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® to all school districts across Texas. Implementing TOP® in Texas schools will help DSHS continue to work towards its mission of a healthy Texas while addressing the well-being of all Texas youth.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to partner with school districts across the state to expose our youth to TOP®,” DSHS Media & State-wide Resource Specialist Crystal Starkey said. “We will be delivering [the program] during the school day, and look forward to how it will enable students to build a bright future for themselves.”

TOP® appealed to DSHS because of its evidence-based practices and inclusion of community service learning as a core aspect of the curriculum.

“Service learning provides a wealth of opportunity to youth, and in building it into the program, everyone involved can be confident that young people are receiving an excellent education,” Starkey added.