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.

National Network Spotlight: Children’s Network of Southwest Florida

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.

Each National Network partner discovers unique ways to tailor Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® to best serve the young people in their community. For Children’s Network of Southwest Florida, the lead agency for child welfare services in Southwest Florida, TOP® offered a great opportunity to partner with programs that were already serving youth.

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Children’s Network TOP® teens after a community service learning project

“[TOP®’s] structure allowed us to maintain fidelity while serving a large geographic area,” said Program Director Karen Turcotte. “We serve teens ages 12-18 in 19 clubs across five counties. Our clubs are held in many different settings, including public schools, community grassroots organizations, group homes, faith-based programs and United Way community centers.”

The diverse settings of the clubs enable facilitators to work with students in familiar environments. By using previously existing supports, Children’s Network designs each club to strengthen the work that’s already occurring in the community. This method uses collective impact to achieve results, and allows Children’s Network to find ways to encourage more organizations to contribute to TOP®.

“Although it is not realistic for some agencies to become a club site, there are many different ways we’ve created community support for TOP®,” added Turcotte. “From providing food donations to guest speakers, offering community service learning help to transportation assistance, we look for ways every community organization can contribute to our TOP® clubs.”

These support systems allow participants to further learn from their community service learning projects and lessons. From their experiences, teens in the clubs are learning to think critically, identify their strengths and better understand and practice their personal values. For one student, TOP® also provided a way to channel energy into a meaningful reflection.

“Anthony is playful and enthusiastic, so sometimes it is difficult to tell if he grasps the concepts because he often engages in side chatter,” Facilitator John Wheeler said. “One week following our lesson on family, he was busy folding construction paper on the table throughout a lesson. At the end of the lesson, he showed us what he was working on: an intricately folded box that demonstrated how a family begins with one person and builds from love. As he unfolded his box and transformed it into a rose, he gave his peers a powerful demonstration of how to reflect on TOP®’s lessons.”

Overall, the teens and facilitators have thoroughly enjoyed TOP®. According to Turcotte, many organizations shared that TOP® is exactly the kind of programming communities need to enhance the experiences of young people.

Wyman’s 7th Annual Spring Derby

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Mark your calendar and dust off those derby hats, the 7th running of Wyman’s Spring Derby is set for Saturday, May 3, 2014 at Ballpark Village in downtown St. Louis!

At this annual Kentucky Derby-themed party, presented by Wyman’s Young Leaders Board, guests watch and bet on vintage horse races played on the big screen while partying through the afternoon to support Wyman teens. 

Ballpark Village is set to open March 27, making Wyman’s Spring Derby one of the first grand events to happen in this new and exciting space.

The Simmons Employee Foundation has once again stepped into the role of “Triple Crown” sponsor with a pace-setting gift of $5,000! Last year, sponsors and party goers netted $17,900 to help teens beat the odds, providing life-changing supports and opportunities to help them build the confidence and skills they need to succeed in life, work and learning.

“This event has been running for six years, now, and delivers a great time again and again. At Simmons, we’re proud to sponsor an unforgettable high stakes evening, for an organization that is helping young people in our community beat the odds,” Suvir Dhar, Board Member for Simmons Employee Foundation, said.

On May 3 the stakes will be high—not just because of the race wagers, but also for the crucial work Wyman does on behalf of teens from disadvantaged circumstances in St. Louis and beyond.

Stay connected with us on Facebook, to be updated when tickets go on sale!

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.”