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.”