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SUCCESS STORIES FROM OUR MEMBERSHIPEach day there are lives being changed as a result of early intervention youth services that you are supporting either as an advocate for Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Youth Intervention Program grants or through a donation directly to one of our organizational members.
The following are just a few snapshots of what is going on in communities throughout Minnesota. Each of the following programs is grantees of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Youth Intervention Program. Please note: All the names have been changed to protect the privacy.
When Family Isn’t Enough
Charles is sitting in a college classroom on the west coast hoping to pursue a career in counseling. His hope is to help others as he has been helped. How he came to be sitting in a college classroom is due in large part to early intervention youth services provided on site at Charles’ high school by Lee Carlson Center for Mental Health and Well Being.
Charles’s mother sent him to live in the United States with an uncle after his father was killed in a war in Africa. Arriving at eight years of age as a refugee is never easy, but Charles worked hard. He excelled in sports and became a star athlete for his high school in basketball, track and soccer.
During the last two years of high school, Charles’ life began to unravel at home. Several times, his uncle left his wife leaving her with two small children and Charles to care for. Charles was angry at his uncle for essentially abandoning his family. He was also pressured by his family to leave school and find a job to help the family make ends meet, as well as to take care of the baby while his aunt was at work in the evenings. Charles was angry and confused. So many parts of his life seemed out of his control. There was no one at home to talk to.
Charles’ teachers saw that his anger and confusion was affecting his school work and also his relationships with classmates and teachers. This was when they referred him to the school based peer support group that Lee Carlson Center was offering at his school. By Lee Carlson Center’s staff being on site at the school, the program was able to work with teachers and coaches so that Charles received the support needed to stay in school and participate in the sports he loved.
The group facilitator also met with Charles on an individual basis whenever he needed the extra support. With the Peer Support Group Program being there for him, Charles once again began seeing that a better future was possible. He was able to play the sports he excelled at. He was the first African American Homecoming King ever elected at his high school. He graduated from high school and is now attending college on a scholarship.
How Ely Community Resources Gave Me Opportunities No One Else Ever Did-The story of Dave
“I’ve been coming to ECR (Ely Community Resources) since I was eight years old. I’m now a high school senior. I’ve been involved in lots of ECR activities. At ECR, I had a mentor, I attended tutoring support groups and was involved in peer leadership.
At ECR it didn't’t matter that my dad bailed. He left my mom to raise me and my sister and brothers on her own. ECR accepted me and gave me opportunities no one else ever did. They make you learn in ways that keep kids interested about making healthy choices and how important an education is.
They make you understand that no matter where you come from or how hard the family stuff is, YOU matter...YOU have value, and YOU can make a difference. If you ask me what ECR means to me, I can tell you what ECR means to me---HOPE”
What Happens in an Out of School Program Can Change Life During The School Day
Middle school is hard enough for any youth. It is even harder to be the ‘new student.’ Emilio found himself as the new student. He struggled to find a way to fit. It didn’t go well and his attitude towards school and life in general became increasingly negative, as did his behaviors. He regularly refused to go to school. If he did attend, he was often late for class. He felt that his teachers were belittling him in front of classmates. Sometimes, he would even shout out obscenities and making idle threats to the teachers. Outside of school, gangs were readily accessible. To Emilio, they seemed the easiest to fit into.
The truancy officer at Emilio’s school referred him to Project SUCCESS, an after school program. It provides Emilio and other kids like him a safe and positive place. Emilio quickly began making friends with youth his own age and forming bonds with staff. The activities and games available to Emilio at Project Success foster the YMCA’s four core values (caring, respect, responsibility and honesty).
Emilio was taken under the wing of one particular staff member. This included weekly lunch meetings at Emilio’s school. At lunch, they would go over grades and assignments that were handed in or due soon. They would also discuss any missing assignments, lateness or absences. Emilio was being held accountable for his behaviors in school. The staff member was trained to know how to hold Emilio accountable in a developmentally appropriate way.
Changing a Youth’s Direction On A Bike: Mentoring in the words of a mentor
I am so proud to be in a mentoring relationship with Jamey through Bolder Options. Over the past 12 months I have observed her changing from an older kid into a mature, thoughtful young woman. I liked Jamey from the moment I met her though it’s difficult to describe why. She was friendly but cautious, perhaps even skeptical in a healthy sort of way. She asked excellent questions and quietly but firmly told me she hated biking. When I enthusiastically announced my plan to do 3 thirty-mile bicycle rides with her, she seemed less than thrilled. Over the next few months, we did several training rides of 10 to 18 miles and three (3) thirty mile rides.
We had fun each and every time, though I am quite sure she will tell you that she still hates biking.
This fall, as our biking season drew to a close, we began to focus on school. At the beginning of the school year, Jamey’s grades and particularly her attendance were well below not only what she was capable of, but also what was required to finish the year. In fits and starts, with a couple of steps forward and one or two steps back, she has come a long way to turning that around. Her improved grades and attitude, as well as attendance have earned her admission into the “A School” at Armstrong. It was Jamey who sought out the information on applying to the A School, which is an academic program designed to assist students in making up credits towards graduation.
This spring Jamey joined the track team at her school. I am certain, despite the nervousness she feels as she lines up for the 100 yard spring at every meet, that she has confidence in herself because of the many tests she has faced and overcome in this past year. She is beginning to see what I saw 10 months ago-that she is strong, determined and capable.
Helping More Than One Life
Nola was placed in a correctional facility for an offense she committed as a minor. At age 18, she was released. With an infant son, she had nowhere to turn upon release. She had a turbulent relationship with her mother who struggled with mental health issues and chemical dependency. Nola’s mom also didn’t want Nola moving in with her. It would change the household income and Nola’s mom would lose her housing subsidy. Nola’s father was not part of her life. Neither was the baby’s father.
With her son to care for, Nola was homeless. She was resourceful. She found a full time job. Nola and her son ‘couch hopped’ among friends in order to stay off the streets. However even after several months of being steadily employed, her earnings did not meet most rental complexes requirements.
As Nola and her case manager began running out of options, a youth worker at the YMCA referred Nola to POINT Northwest for Runaway and Homeless Youth. The program staff put together a support system. This includes providing her with a POINT Northwest Transitional Living Program scholarship, which allowed Nola to obtain a one bedroom apartment for herself and her son.
Today, Nola is working full time, has retained her housing and is attending school. She hopes to attend college with the goal of becoming a correctional officer. Nola is on her way to a better future for herself and her son.
Opportunities for Change and Giving Back -Donny on how Neighborhood Youth Services-Woodland Hills was in his life yesterday and is in his life today
In life, there are a great many influences that shape who we are. My experience at Neighborhood Youth Services is one thing that has helped shape who I am today. I am presently a student at Lake Superior College studying graphic design.
My life could have turned out much differently. I was born in Chicago, and from the start, my life has been rough. I was the first of seven kids in a poor, black family living in poor black neighborhoods, attending poor, black schools surrounded by gangs and a lot of people who just didn’t care. At 17, I moved to Duluth to live with my aunt. It was here I discovered the Washington Center and Neighborhood Youth Services (NYS). It was one of the first times I saw an opportunity for change.
The mentors and staff were adults who I could look up to and who looked out for the youth-not only inside the youth center but outside as well during our everyday lives. To be honest, if it wasn’t for NYS, I would have been out on the street getting into all sorts of trouble. The people in the program were living examples who showed that despite your surroundings or your origin you can have a positive life and do positive things.
Through volunteer work and work study, I’ve been given a chance to be a positive adult figure to kids at NYS. They can trust me and depend on me. Now I have the opportunity to be a role model to the next generation. I can pass on the things I’ve learned, and more importantly just be there for the kids.
Being There Precisely When a Kid begins Making the Wrong Decisions
Zuleyma truancy was increasing. The truant officer thought court involvement could be avoided with Chicas Fuertas providing Zuleyma with the support she needed to change her behavior and attitude. At Chicas Fuertas, we had Zuleyma participate in group sessions with other girls like herself. In group, Zuleyma began opening up. It became apparent that she wanted to make positive changes in her life. She wanted to improve her attendance and grades. She also wanted to have a better relationship with her mother who had grown increasingly distrustful of Zuleyma because of the truancy.
While participating in Chicas Fuertas, Zuleyma’s attendance improved. She also began making her own decisions, instead of having friends influence her. After completing her community service that was part of the diversion program, she gained confidence in herself. She used her community service experience to apply for a professional summer job.
Zuleyma graduated from our program after six months. While at Chicas Fuertes, she proved her determination to be responsible and trustworthy. With changes in both behavior and attitude, there is greater trust between Zuleyma and her mother. Her decision making skills indicate that Zuleyma is well on the road to a better future. She is an exemplary young woman and we at Chicas Fuertes are very proud of her.
Its More than Just Getting A Job
Sara was 17 years old when she first came to us. She had just been kicked out of her home and came to us for help in finding employment. She was still in school and we wanted to make sure she stayed in school. The first thing we did was making sure Sara had a safe place to stay. We helped her to reach out to a cousin who agreed to let her move in with him until she was more settled. We then helped her find employment.
She now has her own apartment. Although employed, finances are tight so we referred Sara to Bridging for household furnishings. With a job and stable housing, Sara is able to stay focused on achieving her life goals: This spring she will be graduating from an alternative high school.
It Stops Here With Me- Mark’s own words
ECR’s a good place for me. The people accept me-they don’t judge me. Don’t get me wrong-if I behave bad they’re on me. They teach us about being responsible and consequences. If we hurt someone, we have to make amends. But the thing that’s been most important to me is that they’re always there for me.
If I make a mistake, they don’t turn their backs on me like a lot of other people in my life did. They keep supporting me-helping me see a better way. My family’s messed up-lots of drinking and fighting. It’s been a tough life. ECR won’t let me blame my family. Hey, my parents are just making the same mistakes their parents made. But, it stops here with me-I’m not a victim. I’m making changes to make my life better.
Just Being There and Listening-It Works Both Ways for Us All
As part of my volunteering with DARTS, I bring court referred youth with me to do chores and odd jobs for seniors. This work allows seniors to live independently for as long as possible in their own homes. Last summer, I brought Brandon to Duncan’s house with me. Brandon is a good kid but he made some bad decisions that led to court. Duncan is 80 years old and just lost his wife. A great guy but lonely.
The day Brandon met Duncan, it was a hot summer day. The kind of day when the last thing a 16 year old boy wants to do is weed someone’s yard. Brandon went in with a good attitude. Duncan’s dog jumped on Brandon as we entered and Brandon immediately began playing with the dog. Duncan and Bandon start talking about the dogs in their lives. As we started weeding, Duncan sat on the porch and talked with us about experiences in WW II, the history of the neighborhood he lives in and other parts of his past.
It was amazing. As Bandon did all the jobs on his chore list, he was actively listening to Duncan. He even opened up and shared his life with Duncan. They could have been two old men sitting on a porch, shooting the breeze. I had never seen Brandon interact to this level with other seniors before. While polite with them, he is usually reserve.
When we left Duncan’s home, Brandon turned to me and said “Boy, I think Duncan just needed to talk to someone.”
To Be There When Needed for a Family
Ben, a quiet and shy kid, joined one of my after school groups. He lives in one of the poorest areas of town. Most go home to an empty house at the end of the school day. Ben’s mom enrolled him in our program because she saw that the friendships he was making often were with older kids who made poor choices. Some were daring or influencing Ben to do the same.
At our program, Ben’s mom knew he would be safe, get his school work done and keep out of trouble. At the end of the school year, I didn’t want to lose touch with Ben so I encouraged him to enroll in our mini bike program (NYPUM). By being in NYPUM, I could keep working with Ben on setting goals that would help him maintain positive behaviors at home, as well as develop new friends.
As he participated in our program, Ben developed the skills to overcome the negative peer pressure he faced with the older kids in his neighborhood. His self-respect and confidence grew. Ben’s younger sister faced the same challenges as Ben. Emily’s way of dealing with the challenges was to take her frustrations out on younger kids or even physically harm herself. Ben and Emily’s mom contacted me about Emily’s behaviors and we were able to get Emily into a counseling group. We used the summer Mini Bike Program as an incentive for Emily to finish the school year.
Life is better for both Ben and Emily. She finished the school year, participated in the summer program and this school year her violence towards others is non-existent! Over the years, Ben has floated in and out of our various programs. He knows we are there for him whenever he needs us-whether it is for academic help, trouble at home, or just needing a place to be safe and accepted. He trusts us to be there for him.