Be Deliciously Generous on November 25

Katie's Pizza Giveback Tuesday LogoWhile the festive day we expected to have with Wyman supporters will be tempered by last night’s events, please know that we will still gather at Katie’s Pizza & Pasta today to benefit Wyman teens. We hope you’ll keep your plans and join us to share thoughts and concerns over a meal with friends, while supporting a cause that can help change the future for young people locally and nationwide.

Be Deliciously Generous Tuesday, November 25, at Katie’s Pizza and Pasta

The entire day’s profits will support Wyman’s teen development programs!

Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
9568 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, MO 63119

Come Any Time
Or Visit Our Special Hosts:

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
David Hilliard, President and CEO of Wyman
EricKirberg, President of The Kirberg Company
Bill Arnold, Business Development Manager of Stifel-Nicolaus

6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Keat Wilkins, President & Co-Founder, Sense Corp
John Myers, Senior Executive; Broker Development, Aflac

Pizza photo

About Katie’s Pizza:
A one of a kind experience with the best handcrafted food in St. Louis.
Beautiful artisan pasta in all shapes and colors dries on racks throughout the restaurant.
View the open kitchen and old Italian films on the back wall along with two living green walls. Or, hang out at the bar and enjoy wood fired appetizers, craft cocktails, 12 beers on tap, or Italian wine.

http://katiespizzaandpasta.com/

Wyman/Teen News: St. Louis Selected for National Initiative to Increase Degree Attainment; and Allison Williams, Senior Vice President-Programs at Wyman Begins St. Louis Graduates’ Co-Chair Position

St. Louis, Missouri – Lumina Foundation recently announced that St. Louis is one of the final 20 metropolitan areas joining  its 75-city community-based attainment network designed to help communities and regions dramatically increase the number of local residents with post-secondary credentials.

Lumina’s focus on community-based attainment began because of the Foundation’s recognition that community-based networks are well-suited to play a role in institutional planning and can provide the implementation and coordination that is necessary to create impact at state and federal levels in order to improve the nation’s higher education system so that it better serves students.

“Two-thirds of Americans live in or near cities. Our nation cannot meet its growing demand for citizens who have earned a post-secondary credential without meaningful community-based efforts that are tightly focused on increasing educational attainment,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO.  “We are very pleased with the way this work has unfolded. With 75 communities across the nation working to align the work of business, civic and education efforts in their local communities, greater coordination will occur, resulting in tangible benefits for students of all ages.  These students in turn will become graduates who form the backbone of the future economic, social and cultural success of those communities.”

St. Louis was invited to be part of Lumina’s Community Partnership for Attainment network because of work already underway through St. Louis Graduates and St. Louis Regional Chamber.

St. Louis Graduates has for six years served as a community catalyst, bringing together education and community organizations to align and strengthen the system of support for low-income students through coordinated services and advocacy. St. Louis Regional Chamber is bringing St. Louis into the Top Ten regions in degree attainment by engaging business and higher education leadership to measure, monitor and inspire action to accelerate degree completion.

As part of Lumina’s Community Partnership for Attainment network, St. Louis will focus on strengthening efforts to increase degree completion rates for area students experiencing the greatest disparities: low-income and African American students.

St. Louis Graduates’ involvement is led by its two new co-chairs who were also recently announced:

Byrd holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration, both from Southeast Missouri State University. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership at UMSL.

Williams holds a Bachelor’s degree from Saint Louis University and a Master’s degree from Boston College, both in Social Work.

Byrd and Williams will transition into the co-chair role over the next two months. Founders Jane Donahue, President of St. Louis Public Schools Foundation, and Faith Sandler, Executive Director of The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, continue as active members of the St. Louis Graduates Steering Committee involved in the Lumina network as well.

“St. Louis Graduates exists because of the vision and tireless commitment to students of Jane Donahue and Faith Sandler which has led to unprecedented regional collaboration in support of students. Alan and Allison will sustain that focus on students while building a regional advocacy voice,” said St. Louis Graduates Steering Committee member Kathy Reeves, Corporate Community Relations Director at Enterprise Holdings, who, with Cynthia Crim, Foundation Program Manager at Commerce Bank, led the nominating process that identified Byrd and Williams.

As the leader of undergraduate recruitment initiatives at UMSL, Byrd works daily with students who are first in their families to attend college and face significant financial obstacles to get there. At Wyman, Williams oversees implementation of Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program and Teen Outreach Program which build teen confidence, resilience and leadership skills in schools and community organizations locally and across the U.S.

“College and universities cannot work in isolation,” said Byrd. “We need the shared commitment of business and community leaders to ensure our neediest students have the support to not only enroll in college, but graduate.”

“Low-income and African American students face significant barriers to graduation – financial, academic, social-emotional, and cultural. Collaborating with the Chamber, business and higher education strengthens our voice in advocating for state and institutional policies that support students and keeps them on the path to a degree,” added Williams.

Leading the Community Partnership for Attainment work from the Chamber are President and CEO Joe Reagan and Vice President of Education Strategy Anne Klein. Reagan joined the Chamber three years ago after leading Greater Louisville Inc. – the Metro Chamber of Commerce where he helped launch that region’s 55,000 Degrees initiative. Klein joined the Chamber in December and brings extensive experience in policy and planning through positions with both St. Louis County and St. Charles County. The Chamber Higher Education Council and Talent Council representatives are also engaged.

“Not only is there an economic imperative to increase degree completion, there is a moral imperative to ensure greater equity in degree attainment for all St. Louisans. Working together with St. Louis Graduates creates a broad-based effort with the momentum to substantially increase the pool of metro graduates,” said Reagan.

The overall effort connects to Goal 2025, Lumina’s national goal to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Progress toward the goal will be measured by credentials earned after high school, including certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees held by local residents. The cities selected will work with Lumina through 2016 to expand and deepen the work they have demonstrated in advancing postsecondary attainment agendas.

St. Louis will work closely with Lumina and national thought leaders to develop a customized action plan focused on reaching attainment goals to increase the percentage of high-quality credentials. The collaborative effort connects St. Louis and participating cities with significant technical and planning assistance, data tools, flexible funding, and the ability to customize attainment plans that will best suit each community’s needs and the well-being of its residents.

St. Louis Graduates and St. Louis Regional Chamber last week convened representatives of area school districts, higher education institutions, college access organizations and businesses to begin crafting the regional plan.

The third and final cohort of communities include: Atlanta, Ga.; Birmingham, Ala.; Boise, Idaho; Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Durham, N.C.; Fresno, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; Monterey Bay, Calif.; Racine, Wis.; Rockford, Ill.; Shasta County, Calif.; Southern Indiana; Springfield, Mo.; St. Louis, Mo.; Tampa, Fla.; Tulsa, Okla.; Twin Cities, Minn.; Tyler, Texas. To view a complete list of cities participating in this work, national thought leaders assisting these cities, and to learn more please click here.

About Lumina Foundation: Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina’s outcomes-based approach focuses on helping to design and build an accessible, responsive and accountable higher education system while fostering a national sense of urgency for action to achieve Goal 2025. For more information, log on to: www.luminafoundation.org

About St. Louis Graduates: St. Louis Graduates is a collaborative network of college access nonprofits, K-12 and higher education, business and philanthropy focused on increasing degree completion for low-income and first-generation students. For more information, visit www.stlouisgraduates.org

About St. Louis Regional Chamber:  The St. Louis Regional Chamber is a broad community of leaders united for economic prosperity throughout the entire St. Louis bi-state region. Our aspiration is for St. Louis to be one of the Top 10 U.S. regions in prosperity. Our one purpose is to inspire a greater St. Louis. Together, we will make St. Louis a more attractive place for people to live, work and invest. We will win on today’s regional strengths in focused economic clusters. We will champion a better tomorrow through greater educational attainment, economic inclusion, entrepreneurship and innovation. For more information, visit www.stlregionalchamber.com.

Wyman News: 2015 Gala Convenes Combined 260 Local Youth and Leadership on Saturday, March 14

Media Contact: Kristin Gumper
Kristin.Gumper@WymanCenter.org
314-346-4042
Download 2015 Gala News Release

Annual Event Highlights Teens Lives Changed by Wyman Programs

St. Louis, MO [Feb. 10, 2015] – More than 55 teen leaders from across St. Louis will converge at The Wyman Gala on Saturday, March 14. St. Louisans are invited to join the festivities, and learn how they too can help support the development of tomorrow’s teen leaders.

The gala, “Celebrating Today’s Teens and Tomorrow’s Leaders,” helps fund positive youth development programs offered by Wyman Center, a national trailblazer in positive youth development strategies that help teens thrive, not just survive.

Wyman’s programs – offered for more than 116 years here in St. Louis – are proven to build teen leadership and resilience, while also reducing teen pregnancy, dropout, class failure and truancy.

Risky behaviors, like teen childbearing, lead to a lifetime of consequences, as well as more than $9 billion in costs to the nation annually. For this reason, prevention programs such as Wyman’s yield a powerful social and financial return on investment – about $10 for every $1 spent.

Teens featured at the gala include those from Wyman’s Teen Leadership and Teen Outreach programs, who will talk one-on-one with gala guests.  The teen meet and greet is a highlight of the annual gala, which has raised more than $800,000 over the last five years to support local Wyman programs.

“More than 13.5 million young people live in poverty,” said Amie Nolan-Needham, event chair. “Wyman has served more than 125,000 nationally over the last five years, but we’ve got more work to do. With support from those who attend the gala, we know that together, we can ignite even greater change – for our teens, our community and the next generation at-large. Having the chance to speak with Wyman teens, learn about the challenges they faced, and discover how they’ve overcome these challenges and transformed their lives is one of the most inspiring moments of my year.”

“Wyman helped me become the person I am today,” said Da’Vione Johnson, who joined Wyman’s programs after experiencing both poverty and gang violence as a young teen. “Wyman gave me a mirror to look at myself for who I am, figure out where I wanted to be, and explore the places I could go. Today, I’m in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, and hope to become an Air Force pilot. Wyman gave me hope, and I am eternally grateful for the people and opportunities that Wyman has placed in front of me.” Currently, Johnson is also full-time student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and a part-time student at Saint Louis University.

Emceeing this year’s gala is a family who will share how these programs have changed their lives – Andre and Dominique, who are both Fox High School students, along with their mother, Joy.

EVENT DETAILS
What:  The Wyman Gala: Celebrating Today’s Teens and Tomorrow’s Leaders
Where:  Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis
When:  Saturday, March 14, 2015, from 6 to 11 p.m.

  • 6 p.m.  – Cocktails
  • 7 p.m. – Special Welcome by a Wyman Family
  • 7:15 p.m. – Dinner
  • 8:20 p.m. – Meet the Wyman Teens, followed by a Fund-the-Need Auction
  • 9 p.m.  – Dance, Dance, Dance and Late Night Nibbles

To purchase tickets visit: http://wymancenter.org/2015-wyman-gala/.

Join the conversation:

About Wyman’s Work:
Through the work of more than 300 providers in 35 states, Wyman offers some of the most successful, cost-effective and highly respected programs for teens nationally.

Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) is a nationally recognized program for teens in 6th to 12th grade that reduces the risk of problem behavior and increases healthy choices.

TOP engages teens in curriculum-guided discussion and community service learning throughout the school year. Delivered during a critical time in adolescent brain development, discussions and activities support brain maturity as youth are engaged in thinking about their goals, values and behaviors.

2013 – 2014 School Year Results (St. Louis):

  • 100 percent of TOP teens remained in school
  • 100 percent of TOP students graduated on-time
  • 98 percent of TOP teens progressed to the next grade level

Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program (TLP) provides immersive residential summer experiences and school-year support over the course of six years to build the leadership capacity of teens, and increase college access and persistence.

2013 Results (St. Louis):

  • 100 percent TLP seniors graduated from high school on time
  • 92 percent enrolled in post-secondary education or training upon graduation
  • 91 percent of TLP alumni have graduated with a degree, are currently enrolled in a degree or training program, or are in the military

About Wyman Center
Wyman, a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit and proud member of the United Way, partners with communities to provide teens with the support and opportunities they need to thrive in life. Originally founded in 1898, Wyman’s mission is to enable teens from economically disadvantaged circumstances to lead successful lives and build strong communities.

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National Network Partner Spotlight: Delta Family Services

Family Services Logo (png)Partner Background:
In 1995, Delta Community Supports Inc. created a Family Services division that began offering foster care services to children, youth and families. In addition to general foster care, Delta offers kinship, medical, treatment and supervised independent living programs. Delta’s caring, loving and innovative approach has enabled the organization to become a model for other agencies.

In 2013, Delta created a Quality Improvement Project in an effort to better serve teens. Through extensive research, the staff discovered Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®). The partnership launched in July 2014 as Wyman’s first certified replication partner in Pennsylvania.

In just three months, the program has multiplied the energy and excitement of the teens. Most importantly, facilitators and teens have formed close, cohesive relationships.

How many teens do you/do you plan to serve?
Carmen Davenport, Delta’s Associate Director of TOP: We offer three TOP clubs, which serve 82 teens. By September 2015, the program will expand to serve approximately 400 teens in various settings.

How do you deliver TOP?
Carmen: Although all three of Delta’s clubs are currently provided in high schools, it is our goal to deliver TOP in additional settings, which include:

  • Afterschool settings, such as recreation centers, the YMCA, etc.
  • Truancy programs.
  • Residential/group homes.
  • In partnership with the judicial system, so that TOP is used as a diversionary program for courts and police districts.

What excites you about TOP?
Carmen: We are excited about the endless possibilities of a diverse youth development program that spans across education and socioeconomic status. The support that Delta has received during our 40+ meetings is remarkable, and hopefully, the result will be more partnerships!

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 Reinforces Peaceful Response; Solutions in the Face of St. Louis Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts: Kristin Gumper
Wyman Center
Director, Communication and External Affairs
Kristin.gumper@wymancenter.org
314-630-5459

WYMAN CENTER REINFORCES PEACEFUL RESPONSE;
SOLUTIONS IN THE FACE OF ST. LOUIS CRISIS

St. Louis, MO [Aug. 14, 2014] – Wyman offers the below response in relation to the recent events in St. Louis:

“As a staff and as an organization, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Michael Brown, as well as the people of Ferguson and surrounding areas. We have lost too many young people in our community due to ongoing violence. These types of events create physical and psychological trauma that lead to a socially toxic environment, and as a community, we need to do whatever it takes to break the cycle,” said David Hilliard, President and CEO of Wyman Center.

“The first step is calling for a peaceful response, and most importantly, supporting the community as residents recover from the rippling effects,” added Hilliard. “We’ve got to address the underlying issues and be prepared to build the future we wish to see. We join with our partner organizations in a united effort to provide parents, educators and community leaders with the resources they need to support children during this tumultuous time.”

The St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund is offering immediate mental health services for children and families impacted by the recent events:

  • The Fund will be providing group crisis support services on Thursday, August 14, 2014. Additional sessions may be added based on the needs of the community. No appointment is necessary. To learn more, visit www.keepingkidsfirst.org.
  • For immediate mental health assistance, County residents are encouraged to contact the St. Louis County Youth Connection Helpline at 314-628-2929. The Helpline is staffed by mental health professionals and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

About Wyman Center
Wyman, a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit and proud member of the United Way, partners with communities to provide teens with the support and opportunities they need to survive and thrive in life. Wyman’s innovative programs are powerful and effective, and the staff is highly acclaimed and committed to preparing today’s youth. For more information, visit www.wymancenter.org, contact Wyman at (636) 938-5245 or e-mail info@wymancenter.org.

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National Network Spotlight: Seasons of Change, Inc.

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.

In 2013, the annual Texas Gang Threat Assessment reported that gang activity is growing in the state with more than 100,000 members in more than 2,500 individual groups. The area most impacted by these groups is in Dallas-Fort Worth.

This is the climate in which Seasons of Change, Inc. operates and creates successes. They implemented Wyman’s TOP® to develop a system of encouragement, life skills training, team building activities, group discussions, education, and community service that benefits both gang and non-gang affiliated clients.

Imagine taking a group of teenagers to a local park to clean up trash. Now make a number of the young people members of rival gangs who, at the beginning of the day, refuse to work together or even get off the bus. Through Seasons of Change, these teens eventually learn to work side-by-side with their former rivals and see the good that they can achieve together.

Helping young gang members open up about their lives and complicated personal issues is easier said than done, but Nathan Anguiano, Project Director for Seasons of Change, has some advice from her experience and successes.

“You have to build relationships,” says Anguiano. “You have to gain their trust and treat them all the same. Enforce rules and discipline but be willing to bend a little when necessary. Show a concern in how they’re doing every day and, in time, they will be completely open with you. This is how you can help them, this is how you can build leaders out of them.”

The impact that Seasons of Change has can be illustrated by one young client who was dismissed from his school because of on-campus gang activity. He requested through his principal that he be able to keep attending TOP® classes because he said, “I need them in my life. I need them to continue to teach me about making better choices so that I can better my life.”

Organizers point to how students bond over personal stories and realize that despite the fact they are from different gangs, they go through the many of same experiences and share the common goal of graduating.

Through TOP®’s community service lessons, students begin to think outside of themselves. The positive results make them more eager to give back to the community. One seventeen year old student said: “TOP® helped me to actually feel loved.”

National Network Spotlight: Susanna Wesley Family Learning 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.

Sometimes the future success of a student shines so brightly that you can identify them as early as elementary school – even if they’ve struggled to reach their full potential and even if they’ve been labeled as at risk.

In the spring of 2009, staff members of the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center (SWFLC) saw the potential in 10 students attending sixth grade in East Prairie, MO.  The team began working with the young people four days per week on their homework, goal planning, and participation in activities that would form bonds to provide them with peer support as they advanced through school.

“These were clearly outstanding students who had leadership qualities.  They just needed some extra attention,” says Marsha Hutchason, program director at SWFLC.

The group incorporated Wyman’s TOP® into their curriculum starting in their freshman year and felt that it was an important part of their continued academic success, especially because of the encouragement and guidance they received about making responsible social choices.

“Many of my friends started participating in questionable activities in their personal lives and I’m not certain I would have resisted the peer pressure if not for TOP®,” said one student.

Other students reported that TOP® provided a sense of belonging and acceptance among like-minded students.

Flash forward to high school graduation when the valedictorian and two co-salutatorians in the class are all members of TOP®.  Every one of the participants is headed to college in the fall.

“This was an amazing group of students.  We can’t wait to see what the future holds for them,” Hutchason said.

National Network Spotlight: Smith Community Mental Health

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.

In Broward County, Florida, Smith Community Mental Health (SCMH) helps teens with behavioral health issues overcome personal obstacles and change their lives for the better. They serve 80 teens from at risk environments each year and use Wyman’s TOP® program for more than teaching essential life skills—it is also an excellent chance to help better their community.

“I feel TOP® has positively influenced the teens’ choices by giving them a safe environment where they feel free to discuss difficult topics openly,” said Brooke Tenenbaum, program manager. “Our teens have learned a number of life lessons like the importance of helping others, being able to have safe and healthy domestic relationships, practicing safe sex, speaking up for themselves, and how tBroward 5o work well with peers for a common goal.“

The program has also educated the teens about the importance of helping others in the community.  Community service projects have included suicide prevention activities and beach cleanup projects.

One of the most meaningful activities that the group has participated in was a feeding the homeless project during the winter months.  Following their day of volunteering, the teens and facilitators sat down together at a restaurant for a “family meal” – an unusual experience for many of the young people.  While they enjoyed their food, the teens began to open up about their personal experiences with homelessness.

“It was very powerful to hear our youth describe their own struggles after a day of helping others. Some of them still face the problem of homelessness, but they gave their time to help others,” said Tenebaum.

Tenenbaum finds it touching to see the teens form the kind of relationships they likely wouldn’t have in their lives without TOP®.Broward 4

“Seeing how engaged the youth become and how trusting they are with the facilitators and other peers in the groups is my favorite part. This is why it’s so beneficial that our staff is made up of various professionals that are experienced with at-risk youth,” she said.

Tenenbaum and  the staff widely agree that TOP® has touched the lives of participating teens as well as the community.  The teens have been very vocal that they feel blessed to have the program as a source of help and a personal refuge.  Broward 6

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.