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CAC Youth One Eighty high school mentoring program proves especially beneficial to FCPS

While the Community Action Council has a longstanding partnership with Fayette County Public Schools, one of its recent initiatives has proven especially beneficial for high school students. The Youth One Eighty program, which launched in 2013, gives teenagers regular opportunities to share freely about whatever is on their minds in small-group mentoring sessions. It also includes after-school and summer academic enrichment and recreational activities.

The volunteers encourage students to apply themselves in school and start planning for their future (Photo from FCPS)

“We talk about what supports you need to navigate high school and bring in mentors who can relate to them and want to give to the lives of our young people,” said Catrena Bowman, the council’s director of Community Services. “We want to be a big part of students’ success, providing extra support and making sure families have safety nets in place,” she added.

Guidance counselors and other school staff consistently report improvement in motivation, attitude, relationships, classroom behavior, and academic performance among students participating in Youth One Eighty.

“It’s been very impactful. I’m seeing the kids grow and change,” said Erin Adcock, a behavioral specialist at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. “Our students desperately need community roles models actively involved in shaping their ideas and perspective to be successful in the real world, and I see Youth One Eighty as a strong community partner with PLD.”

At Dunbar, the council’s volunteers mentor about 20 girls and 20 boys during the college/career readiness period on Wednesdays. Sometimes these groups meet together and sometimes separately, depending on the subject. Topics cover such areas as responsibility and respect, effective communication, coping skills, problem solving, and leadership.

Sometimes the boys and girls meet together and sometimes separately, depending on the subject (Photo from FCPS)

Youth One Eighty uses a similar format at Bryan Station High School, with some 30 students meeting on the second and fourth Thursdays. This is the program’s fourth year running at Station. “They have a curriculum already written and ready to go, which makes it so much easier for us on this end so we can get right into it,” said Sabina Massey, the school’s Youth Services Center coordinator.

The program not only provides extra attention and guidance but also helps occasionally with students’ basic needs like food and transportation. “The key is to have one caring adult checking in on a consistent basis. It’s a good way to connect with our kids who might be a little more vulnerable,” Massey said.

Youth One Eighty also operates this year at Frederick Douglass, Henry Clay, and Lafayette high schools; Tates Creek has participated in the past. Typically, two or three volunteers go out to interact with the dozens of students at each location, so additional mentors are always welcome.

“The goal is to provide resources – emotional or social – to help them stay in school and be engaged in school,” said Melissa Tibbs, director of Planning, Communications, and Advancement for the Community Action Council. “Students appreciate there’s an outlet to talk about something that’s bothering them,” she noted. “As they meet with people consistently over the course of a year, it leads to opportunities to have real discussions. We’re kind of a neutral ear in an education environment. If there’s anything they might not otherwise say, they’re feeling more comfortable and free to (share) with us.”

In the larger picture, Community Action tries to break the cycle of poverty and nurture students toward successful life paths. “The earlier we can work with people who ultimately go out into the world, the better,” Tibbs said. “We’re looking to provide support to youth so they understand the importance of education. The more we can have access to them in school, the better the overall development of the community we live in.”

From Fayette County Public Schools

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