In a check presentation on Thursday, July 23, the Orange County Community Foundation and the United Way of South Central Indiana awarded Youth First, Inc. with grants to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of students in Orange County. The funds will help Youth First continue to carry out its vision of cared-for kids through its highly impactful model of prevention.

Youth First’s prevention services and evidence-based programs are embedded in Orleans, Springs Valley and Paoli schools. Youth First Social Workers at Orleans Elementary, Orleans Jr./Sr. High School, Springs Valley Elementary, Springs Valley High School, Throop Elementary, and Paoli Jr./Sr. High School are working to build caring relationships, foster readiness for positive change, and boost resiliency along with other valuable life skills. Research shows these protective factors are the keys to preventing addiction, suicide, violence, and similar outcomes for young people.

The Orange County Community Foundation awarded $6,000 for social work services in Orange County schools and $2,500 from their Tri-County COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Partnership grant to provide continued critical mental health services to students and families in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The United Way of South Central Indiana also awarded $500 for Youth First’s WhyTry program at Paoli Jr./Sr. High School. The WhyTry program is a small group class designed to strengthen healthy school and peer bonds and address social and emotional needs.

The organization’s positive outcomes are driving growth, with more schools seeking Youth First’s help to address the growing social and emotional needs of students. Statewide, Youth First is partnering with 91 schools across 11 counties to place 61 Master’s level social workers in school buildings, where they become specialized mentors for students and prevention coaches for parents and teachers.

If you would like to know more about Youth First’s work in Orange County, please contact Becky Jessmer, Regional Development Officer, at or (812)322-8123, or visit our website at