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The second semester of the 2020-2021 school year is underway, and relief funds from the United Way of Daviess County are helping Youth First, Inc. strengthen the social and emotional well-being of students in Daviess County.

In 2020, United Way of Daviess County awarded Youth First with a $1,000 Covid-19 Relief Fund grant to support the organization’s school-based social work services, allowing five Youth First Social Workers to adapt and maintain vital connections with students and families. As the pandemic has continued, Youth First’s mental health professionals are utilizing confidential phone lines and virtual platforms to provide ongoing support whether or not school buildings are open. Thanks to United Way of Daviess County jumping in to offer crisis funding, the relied-on service that Youth First provides to students has been able to continue uninterrupted. 

Youth First partners with Washington, Barr-Reeve, and North Daviess Community Schools, as well as Washington Catholic Schools. Over 3,600 Daviess County students have access to Youth First’s programs and services.

To learn more about Youth First services and programs or to make a donation to Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org/daviess.

This school year, over 400 students will benefit from a new partnership between Youth First and Washington Catholic Schools. Washington Catholic Elementary and Washington Catholic Middle/High School will welcome a Youth First Social Worker in their building to serve the social and emotional well-being of students. Youth First will also launch several Family First programs for students and families in Daviess County.

Youth First embeds Master’s level social workers and prevention programs in schools to help increase the hope and resilience of young people and their families. Youth First Social Workers are specialized mentors for students and prevention coaches for parents and teachers. Their presence also contributes to a healthier and safer school environment. Youth First currently partners with 90 schools across 11 counties in Indiana.

Within Daviess County, Youth First partners with Washington Community School Corporation, North Daviess Community School Corporation, and Barr-Reeve Community School Corporation, along with the new partnership with Washington Catholic. Over 3,500 Daviess County students now have access to Youth First’s programs and services.

At Washington Catholic Schools, Youth First Social Worker Abby Betz will work hand-in-hand with students, parents, teachers, and school administrators to help youth develop a mindset, a skill set, and a social support system that builds resilience in all areas of life. Principals Kelsi Edwards and Karie Craney, along with President Linda Ketzner, agree the value of having a Youth First Social Worker in their buildings is immeasurable. “I have witnessed the amazing services provided by Youth First Social Workers. They meet the needs of each school they serve and are able to cater to the specific needs of each student. More importantly, Youth First becomes family to the schools they serve. Youth First’s dedication in supporting and sustaining mental health for our entire student body is not only appreciated, but an important component that supports the function of all schools,” says Ketzner.

Youth First will also launch virtual Family First programs this school year for Daviess County families. Family First is a 10-week group program designed for parents and caregivers along with their children and teens. Families build on improving family relationships, parenting skills, and youth social and life skills. The program welcomes single-parent, blended, and traditional families and is also offered in Spanish in Daviess County.

With a mission of strengthening youth and families, Youth First celebrated its 22nd anniversary earlier this year. Youth First President & CEO Parri Black states, “Caring relationships are even more important today as the world navigates the uncertainties of COVID-19. When the pandemic closed our partner school buildings in March, students, families, and educators counted on Youth First to continue caring for kids remotely to buoy their mental health and well-being during extraordinarily stressful times. This kind of confidence and trust is earned through years of relationship-building and a track record of results that make Youth First well-positioned to identify and address the social and emotional needs of thousands of school-aged children no matter the circumstances.”

The strength of the Youth First prevention model in Daviess County is the result of determined school leaders, valued community partners, and generous donors. Sustaining the service into future years will come from school partner fees and the community supporting Youth First with donations, sponsorships, and private investment. Visit the organization’s website to learn more about the dedicated Daviess County citizens who help support Youth First’s school-based social work program.

To learn more about Youth First services and programs, or to make a donation to Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org/daviess and donate online.