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.

Wyman Center Featured on Giving Library

Wyman Center recently was added as a Giving Library nonprofit! The Giving Library, an innovative website which helps philanthropies enhance their strategic giving, features more than 850 nonprofit organizations.

Currently, the Giving Library is encouraging members to share their favorite nonprofits through social media in an initiative called Share to Give. By participating in Share to Give, users can earn Wyman a $5 donation from the Giving Library by sharing our Giving Library profile on Facebook and Twitter. To get started, you can learn more about the contest or simply head over to Wyman’s Giving Library page and click the “share now” button to participate.

On behalf of Wyman teens nationwide, thank you for your support through Share to Give!

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.

National Network Spotlight: The Greater St. Louis Federation of Settlement Houses and Neighborhood Centers

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 its positive outcomes.

In the St. Louis metro area and East St. Louis, Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® Coordinators Sharon Williams and Kayla Bryant are witnessing how TOP® is changing the lives of 150 teens for the better. Williams and Bryant are a part of TOP® at the Greater St. Louis Federation of Settlement Houses and Neighborhood Centers, a Wyman National Network partner since 2010. The Federation has 10 TOP® clubs serving students in high school and middle school, and incorporates curriculum-guided group discussions and community service learning to provide young people with the skills and abilities they need to navigate life. For Bryant and Williams, the curriculum is key to creating impactful lessons and helping students make sound decisions about their future.

IMAG1657“I enjoy the freedom of the curriculum,” said Bryant. “It allows me to modify aspects of the lesson without changing the integrity of what is being taught.”

During lessons, the discussions are youth-led with a facilitator acting as mediator. For the sexuality lessons, Williams noticed how the teens led the facilitators through knowledge they gained from other programs and social services agencies. This opportunity to take initiative is one of the reasons why teens in the program are invested in their experience.

“Some of our teens have graduated from high school and still come back to be a part of club,” said Williams.

IMAG1650-1This approval from past and present TOP® participants drives the success of the program. According to Bryant, spreading the news of TOP® through the teens currently is the best source of advertisement for the clubs.

“Word of mouth truly works, and maintaining an energy around the program is what keeps students coming back year after year,” Bryant added. “We have a lot of returning teens this year, and it’s been great getting to see true measurable growth in their behavior and attitudes.”

Apply for a St. Louis Area Scholarship

CollegeCentral_blue-bkg-small (2)Are you a high school senior or soon-to-be graduate student looking for funding for college? St. Louis Graduates’ Scholarship Central currently has dozens of scholarships and interest-free loans available!

Scholarship Central is a free, online system which any student in the St. Louis area can use to access and apply to St. Louis area scholarships and interest-free loans. Simply visit the site and sign up with a valid email address to create a secure user profile that will allow you to quickly and easily find and apply to many funding opportunities through a common application. It’s easy to get started; click here to learn how to complete the free online application and see what funding opportunities are available for you.

St. Louis Graduates, a Wyman partner, is a coalition of educators, service providers, business people and philanthropic leaders who have come together to help first-generation and low-income students get ready, get in and get through a post-secondary degree.

Experiencing Returns on Community Investments

Teen Leadership Program alumnaeAs 2014 began, many news reports heralded the year-ending 25%-plus return on investment from the stock market. While I was certainly glad my retirement and my children’s college savings funds benefited from this, I was privileged to witness an even more profound return on investment when I recently shared dinner with a gathering of Wyman Teen Leadership Program alumnae.

The twenty-one young adults had gathered to reminisce, laugh, share, and dine together.  Over the course of dinner, we shared in 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. What struck me the most, however, was the recurring commitment and passion around service to others. One alum was getting ready to do a winter break service trip to New Orleans, still providing relief after Hurricane Karina.  She had already provided support after Hurricane Sandy. Another alum is applying for Teach for America after college graduation, while a third is a Golden Apple Scholar in Illinois, 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 that now has him linked 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.

Since 2002, our community of individuals, corporations, foundations, and local United Way have invested in these young people through Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program. Throughout their teen years, these young people had supportive and caring adult relationships, opportunities to lead themselves and others, a sense of belonging with a positive peer group, a focus on their future and their abilities, challenging learning experiences, and opportunities 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.

Southwest Health District Brings TOP® to Albany Teens

Wyman’s National Network is proud to announce that the Southwest Health District is a new Certified Replication Partner. The Southwest Health District is a 14-county public health district that serves more than 300,000 citizens in the southwestern corner of Georgia. Through their mission of preventing disease, promoting health and preparing and responding to disasters, the district changes the odds for the people in its communities.

The district received funding from Turner Foundation, Inc. to introduce the Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) in Albany by offering the program to 50 young people between the ages of 13 and 16. Albany, the largest city in the area, was recently named the fourth poorest city in the nation based on census bureau statistics and experiences a record amount of teen pregnancies each year in teens between the ages of 10 and 19. TOP® will become one of the district’s many initiatives to promote health and well-being, particularly in the area of teen pregnancy prevention.

“Hope is the best contraceptive,” Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential (GCAPP) Founder Jane Fonda said. “If we can give young people hope and help them recognize that they have the self-efficacy to achieve their goals, then we will accomplish something. Through TOP®, we can provide the framework for building this sense of purpose.”

National Network Spotlight: Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual 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.

animal shelter donations, TOP community service learning, Wyman's TOPSurrounded by canned pet food and bags upon bags of animal treats, toys and supplies, a group of teens participating in Wyman’s TOP® in Michigan can truly see the difference they are making in their community.

These young people are part of a group of more than 150 students engaging in community service learning, team-building activities and lesson plans provided by the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health’s TOP®. Spurred by the community service learning component of TOP® and their desire to positively impact their community, the teens brainstormed, planned and led a successful donation drive at their school for the Jackson County Animal Shelter. And, their efforts did not go unnoticed; MLive, a local news source, featured the teens for their donations and dedication.

In Michigan, this act of service was only one of many ways that teens engaged in TOP®. Monthly, teens plan and participate in community service learning projects that help build their confidence and leadership skills.

Michigan TOP, Jackson County Health Department, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program“The community service learning piece is one of our favorite parts of TOP®,” Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coordinator Michelle White said. “We see a different side of our students when they are out in the community working with populations in need and expanding their comfort zones.”

In addition to directly improving their community, teens resonate with the goal setting, values clarification and relationship aspects of the curriculum.

“Our students really feel that TOP® is very impactful [for them]. They have multiple stressors going on in their lives, but some just come back to school so they do not miss TOP®,” White reflected.

Throughout her work with teens in TOP®, White has witnessed the program providing an outlet for the students to discuss real-life topics, find support for everyday struggles, challenge one another and bond and grow as a group.

“TOP® is changing our community for the better [for] students who really need the programming the most,” White said.

At MOASH, Wyman’s TOP® is made possible by support from the Jackson County Health Department. (JCHD). JCHD has been a provider of Wyman’s TOP® for three years and is dedicated to creating and promoting a healthy community through disease prevention and control, health education, environmental protection and emergency preparedness.

Empowering Teens in 2014

Jennie Blakeney is a Wyman Teen Outreach Program® trainer for the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium. As a TOP® trainer, she has trained 58 facilitators who have worked directly with more than 1,000 teens. Jennie recognizes how TOP® empowers teens to navigate their education, engage with their communities, identify their values and make better decisions. Her knowledge does not simply come from facilitating the program for teens; 20 years ago, Jennie was a TOP® participant! Faced with difficult times during her adolescence, Jennie overcame adversity with help from meaningful lessons and community service learning experiences in TOP®.

Jennie’s story is an example of the powerful impact TOP® has in a teen’s life. And, the TOP® that she experienced is the same evidence-based best practice program that today’s teens encounter.  Our commitment to fidelity, collective impact and outcome accountability is necessary to delivering a program that will consistently and persistently ensure healthy choices, safety, connectedness and productivity for teens from low-resource environments.

I encourage you to watch Jennie’s story and consider the tens of thousands of teens that our nationwide initiatives reach. 2014 will be an exciting time as Wyman continues to grow and evolve to reach even more teens. I look forward to sharing the new year’s successes, partnerships and collaborations with you as Wyman—with your help—brings a message of persistence and empowerment to a whole new generation of young people.

For the teens,
Dave Hilliard

Giving the Gift of Presence

Blog by Grant Sneed. As a TOP® Specialist for Wyman, Grant is responsible for facilitating Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) at Normandy Middle School in St. Louis County.

“Every man is trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or trying to make up for his father’s mistakes.” – President Barack Obama.

It is the biggest holiday season of the year—school is paused, families are together and jingle bells are ringing in the air. As Christmas has been designated as the time for giving, I notice that there is one particular group that is usually left with few, if any, gifts under the tree: parents. Being a parent can sometimes be considered a thankless job, with the recipients of your hard work and sacrifice frequently wondering, “What have you done for me lately?”

This holiday season, my three children were engulfed in the “Christmas spirit” by creating wish lists and making sure I recognized their frequent good behavior. While focused on receiving, they never considered what they could give to anyone else. My wife and I used their behavior for a teachable moment, and taught them what the true “spirit of Christmas” entails. Through the lessons, I realized that I was giving my children an intangible and invaluable gift: my presence. Without realizing it, the gift that children really need and seek is time with their parents—especially their father. By giving them my time and attention, I have the opportunity to influence them and shape their futures. What a gift and a responsibility!

Thanks to my dad, I take this gift very seriously. I understand that I could never repay my father for all of the time, attention, and love he gave me. He possessed a wealth of knowledge and shared so much with me that I now repeat his words as though they are my own. I am a reflection of him and I strive each day to live up to the expectations he set for my life.

My experiences as a child and a father create a stark contrast to what I encounter in working with the students at Normandy Middle School. The majority of the students do not have a father to set expectations or impart knowledge. Instead, the teens are left making up for mistakes and missteps created by a father’s absence. In working with them, I often get overwhelmed by trying to meet their needs. Although I give them my best, my efforts can never compensate for the lack of fatherly presence in their daily lives.

A father’s role is an integral component to the success of a child, and with an ever-increasing rate of single-parent households (mostly single mothers), we need more positive male influences—especially within African-American communities. Currently, our president serves as a shining example for African-American youth. He overcame obstacles that plague communities like Normandy. While President Barack Obama overcame statistics and inspires communities with his story, more is needed to recapture the lives of young people who are currently on destructive paths.

Although I cannot single-handedly solve the issues that Normandy students face, I believe that a positive presence can produce future presidents. The influence of my father combined with my time as a parent and TOP® facilitator equips me to positively change the lives of the teens I daily encounter. Although I experience frustrating moments, my reward comes from knowing that my time spent produces increased influence. I give, receiving nothing more than a listening ear, and I take comfort in knowing that, as they listen, they will learn and grow. Although my talents may seem insufficient compared to their overwhelming needs, I will continue to offer the gift of my presence in hopes that one day I will see my students reaching goals and exceeding the expectations I have set.