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The Kendrick Foundation has awarded a $15,160 grant to Youth First, Inc. to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of students in Mooresville and Martinsville schools. This investment will help Youth First expand its highly impactful model of prevention to reach more youth and families in Morgan County.

In partnership with school districts, Youth First embeds Master’s level social workers to become specialized mentors for students and prevention coaches for parents and teachers. Youth First Social Workers build caring relationships, foster readiness for positive change, and boost resiliency along with other valuable life skills. Research shows these are the keys to preventing addiction, suicide, violence, school dropouts and more.

Kendrick Foundation President Greg McKelfresh sums up the Foundation’s motivation for supporting Youth First:  “Children in Morgan County are our greatest asset in building a brighter future for this community. However, so many of them are struggling due to circumstances out of their control, whether it’s poverty, homelessness, addictions, mental illness, etc. We need solutions to help them and their families break these destructive cycles. We’re excited to partner with Youth First as they provide additional people and resources to tackle these issues head-on and build stronger, healthier and self-reliant families.”

“The Kendrick Foundation’s investment is critical to growing Youth First’s life-changing work in Morgan County. Working together, we can protect and heal the hearts of more young people and their families,” said Parri O. Black, Youth First’s President & CEO.

Youth First launches services this month at Paul Hadley Middle School in Mooresville with support from the Kendrick Foundation, Home Bank and the school district.  Youth First began serving Martinsville’s Bell Academy in August with funding from the Lilly Endowment’s Comprehensive Counseling Initiative, the Governor’s Director of Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement, and the school district.

“Kendrick’s grant goes a long way toward helping match Home Bank’s $30,000 challenge gift, but we must still raise another $15,000,” said Black. “We invite all community members to support Youth First’s life-saving work.”

Gifts designated for Youth First in Morgan County may be made online at youthfirstinc.org/morgan or by mail to 111 SE Third Street, Suite 405, Evansville, IN, 47708.  To learn more, contact Regional Development Officer Adam Novello at 574-286-3093 or anovello@youthfirstinc.org.

Media Release – August 29, 2018 –

Youth First, Inc. is helping the state of Indiana tackle the opioid epidemic and other drug problems by expanding its evidence-based model of prevention to more schools. Jim McClelland, the Governor’s Director of Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement, announced the partnership Wednesday during a series of news conferences.

“Youth First is one of the state’s key allies in the battle against substance abuse,” said McClelland. “Indiana must attack the opioid epidemic on all fronts, not just through more treatment options and better law enforcement, but also by investing in long-term solutions that reduce drug use among young people.”

McClelland’s office awarded $811,901 to Youth First to grow prevention services in 15 additional Indiana schools across six counties. Partnering schools and private donors in each of the communities are also supporting the expansion.

“Youth First embeds master’s level social workers in schools to become specialized mentors for at-risk students and skilled prevention coaches for parents and teachers,” said Parri O. Black, President & CEO of Youth First, Inc.  “The state’s investment adds 10 more Youth First Social Workers and prevention programs to schools in Daviess, Monroe, Morgan, Orange, Posey and Warrick counties.”

Youth First Social Workers and prevention programs focus on building healthy relationships, fostering readiness to make positive changes, and developing resiliency and other life skills. Research shows that these are the keys to delaying and reducing youth substance use and related risky behaviors.

A decade of data collection and independent evaluations confirm that Youth First’s approach decreases stress and increases skills that help young people succeed in school and in life. 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.

Youth First’s programs and services are now accessible to over 38,000 young people, plus parents and teachers, in 75 schools and 10 counties, up from 58 schools in seven counties last year. The growth is also supported by another state grant through the Division of Mental Health and Addiction that increases services in Evansville-Vanderburgh, North Gibson, Mt. Vernon, and Warrick County schools. In addition, Youth First’s work relies on the investment of many community and private donors, including Lilly Endowment grants recently awarded to several schools.

Youth First Founder Dr. William Wooten was recently awarded one of Indiana’s highest honors. At the Emerald Gala celebrating Youth First’s 20th anniversary on April 21, 2018, Dr. Wooten was designated a Sagamore of the Wabash by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. 

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch announced the award in a video tribute, and it was then presented by Youth First President & CEO Parri O. Black and Youth First Board Member Carol Lynch. 

“Dr. Wooten has literally saved thousands of lives through the founding of Youth First. It was no easy task in a world searching for quick fixes, but he knew Youth First must be a coordinated, collaborative, comprehensive, regional and sustained effort in order to fight substance abuse and related concerns like suicide, self-harm, child abuse, violence and other traumatic childhood experiences,” said Lynch. 

A former family physician and director of a treatment center, Dr. Wooten founded Youth First in 1998 because he saw a growing number of young people with complex substance use and behavioral health disorders. Feeling there was a gap in prevention services in our area, he rallied community leaders and worked to positively address the problem and help young people succeed. 

Over the last 20 years, Dr. Wooten’s concern for young people and dream of a better approach to prevention has resulted in an organization that has become a trusted partner in Indiana and is now a model for the rest of the state. 

The Sagamore of the Wabash honorary award was created during the term of Governor Ralph F. Gates, who served as Indiana Governor from 1945 to 1949. Conferred upon Indiana citizens who have contributed greatly to Hoosier heritage, the award has been given to astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, musicians, scientists, politicians and others. 

About Youth First, Inc.:
Youth First’s mission is to strengthen youth and families through evidence-based programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success. Youth First partners with 58 schools across 7 counties to provide 39 Master’s level social workers who assess needs, develop and implement prevention plans, and connect students and their families to community resources. Youth First also offers afterschool programs involving parents and caregivers to strengthen families. For more information about Youth First, please visit www.youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336. 

A record $342,000 was raised from the Emerald Gala Celebrating Youth First’s 20th Anniversary, held at Tropicana’s Riverfront Pavilion on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Nearly 500 guests enjoyed a live auction, program, formal dinner and dancing. The Emerald Gala, sponsored by Edward Jones, celebrated Youth First’s supporters and impact over the years and set the stage for the organization’s future endeavors. 

The Passport to Adventure Preview and Awards Reception, presented by Romain Cross Pointe Auto Park, was held on Thursday, April 19, 2018. The event was hosted by Hot 96’s Claire Ballard. Guests previewed and placed bids on silent auction items, and young people who have benefitted from Youth First’s programs and services were honored. 

The Don Mattingly Youth Award was presented to middle school student Alicia Phillips of Pike Central Middle School and high school student Michaela McGregor of Signature School. The Carol Lynch Advocate of Youth First Award winner was Ethan Barrera of Harrison High School/Virtual Academy EVSC. Toyota Indiana sponsored the Awards Reception. 

Proceeds will be used to fund Youth First’s school social work services and prevention programs available to students and their families across southwest Indiana at no charge. Youth First would like to thank all of the generous event sponsors, donors, volunteers and attendees for your support of these two 20th anniversary celebrations. 

About Youth First, Inc.: Youth First’s mission is to strengthen youth and families through evidence-based programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success. Youth First partners with 59 schools across 7 counties to provide 39 Master’s level social workers who assess needs, develop and implement prevention plans, and connect students and their families to community resources. Youth First also offers afterschool programs involving parents and caregivers to strengthen families. For more information about Youth First, please visit www.youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.

Youth First, Inc. was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation to support social work services in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC). As part of the grant, Youth First Social Workers will be in local schools to help address the social and emotional needs of young people by building caring relationships, fostering a readiness for positive changes, boosting resiliency and teaching other valuable life skills. These specialized mentors will offer free-of-charge support to students, parents, families and teachers in five local schools. 

“Our children are growing up in a complex and challenging world that puts them at greater risk for substance use, suicide, violence, and other harmful behaviors,” said Parri O. Black, resident & CEO of Youth First, Inc. “The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation’s investment and the EVSC’s partnership are critical to achieving Youth First’s mission. Working together, we can protect and heal the hearts of more young people.” 

The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation grant will help fund Youth First’s Social Work services and programs at five EVSC high schools: Bosse, Central, Harrison, North, and Reitz. 

“Anthem is committed to improving the health and well-being of our communities and the people we serve,” said Kristen Metzger, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Plan President. “Through our partnership with Youth First, we’ll be able to improve access to care for those in need while positively impacting and supporting youth who are often the most in need of finding emotional and social help.” 

A check presentation for the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation grant will take place on Monday, April 9, 2018, at 2:00 pm at Youth First, 111 SE Third Street, Suite 405, Evansville, IN. Representatives from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Youth First and Dr. David Smith, Superintendent of the EVSC, will be present. Media is invited to attend. 

About Youth First, Inc.:
Youth First’s mission is to strengthen youth and families through evidence-based programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success. Youth First partners with 59 schools across 7 counties to provide 39 Master’s level social workers who assess needs, develop and implement prevention plans, and connect students and their families to community resources. Youth First also offers afterschool programs involving parents and caregivers to strengthen families. For more information about Youth First, please visit www.youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336. 

About Anthem BlueCross BlueShield of Indiana:
Anthem BlueCross BlueShield works with the state of Indiana to offer the Hoosier Healthwise and Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) health insurance programs for 372,000 Medicaid beneficiaries. HHW serves low-income families, pregnant women and children up to age 19. HIP covers residents age 19 through 64 including low-income families. Anthem has administered benefits and services for HHW since 2007 and HIP since 2008. 

Youth First, Inc. hosted a ribbon cutting on Thursday, February 1st unveiling its 20th anniversary celebrations. The year ahead will include an anniversary edition of the organization’s signature auction, an awards reception, and a celebratory gala. These events will honor the community that has stepped forward to support Youth First over the years and serve as a springboard for the organization’s future endeavors.

Featured speakers at the unveiling included Dr. William Wooten, Youth First founder; Carol Lynch, Youth First Board Member; Jim Back, Edward Jones Financial Planner; and Parri Black, Youth First President & CEO. The Southwest Indiana Chamber marked the occasion with an anniversary ribbon cutting and light refreshments were served.

The organization will highlight the Edward Jones Emerald Gala celebrating Youth First’s 20th anniversary on April 21, 2018, at Tropicana’s Riverfront Pavilion. Limited sponsorships and tickets are available. The gala features an anniversary edition of Youth First’s Passport to Adventure auction as well as a formal dinner, dancing, and other entertainment. This event commemorates Youth First’s 20th anniversary by honoring all of the supporters who continue to protect and heal the hearts of youth and families.

Prior to the gala, Youth First will host an auction preview and awards reception presented by Romain Cross Pointe Auto Park on April 19, 2018, at Tropicana’s Riverfront Pavilion. All are welcome to preview auction items at this reception which will also honor young people who have benefitted from Youth First’s programs and services. This event is open to the public and free to attend. The winners of the Don Mattingly Youth Award and the Carol Lynch Advocate of Youth First Award will be named.

About Youth First, Inc.: Youth First’s mission is to strengthen youth and families through evidence-based programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success. Youth First partners with 59 schools across 7 counties to provide 39 Master’s level social workers who assess needs, develop and implement prevention plans, and connect students and their families to community resources. Youth First also offers afterschool programs involving parents and caregivers to strengthen families. For more information about Youth First, please visit www.youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.

Youth-serving professionals will benefit from a series of trauma-informed trainings led by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

Dr. Ginsburg comes to Evansville January 23 and 24 at the invitation of Youth First, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening youth and families. 

“When children struggle to manage their emotions and behaviors, the root cause is often high levels of stress or trauma, what experts call Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs,” said Davi Stein-Kiley, Youth First’s Vice President of Social Work and Programs. “Dr. Ginsburg’s work focuses on fostering resilience and other strengths to help children overcome their problems.” 

Dr. Ginsburg will lead multiple sessions over a two-day period for medical and mental health professionals, educators, and youth workers. He will cover ACEs, strategies to engage hard-to-reach youth and resiliency, among other topics. 

The trainings were made possible through a community partnership between Youth First, the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, St. Vincent, Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., and Deaconess Cross Point. 

The media is invited to attend a session for educators and school administrators Tuesday, Jan. 23, 8:00 – 10:00 am, at the Academy for Innovative Studies auditorium on Diamond Avenue. Dr. Ginsburg will address questions after the session.

About Youth First, Inc.:
Youth First’s mission is to strengthen youth and families through evidence-based programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success. Youth First partners with 59 schools across 7 counties to provide 39 Master’s level social workers who assess needs, develop and implement prevention plans, and connect students and their families to community resources. Youth First also offers afterschool programs involving parents and caregivers to strengthen families. For more information about Youth First, please visit www.youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336. 

Youth First, Inc. honored Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch at its 10th Annual Breakfast of Champions event on Tuesday, October 17th at St. Vincent Manor in Evansville. Crouch received the Dr. William Wooten Champion of Youth First Award at the event, sponsored by German American. With over 300 attendees, the organization celebrated its hundreds of donors, supporters and volunteers in addition to recognizing Crouch. 

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke proclaimed October 17, 2017, as “Suzanne Crouch, Champion of Youth First, Day.” 

Through her public service career and personal pursuits, Lt. Governor Crouch has focused on improving opportunities for Hoosiers. Having witnessed Youth First’s continued success strengthening youth and families, Suzanne became a champion for expanding the organization’s evidence-based prevention model. 

Breakfast of Champions attendees enjoyed remarks from Gov. Eric Holcomb, Youth First President & CEO Parri O. Black and Founder Dr. William Wooten, as well as friends and family of Lt. Gov. Crouch. 

“It’s all about investing in our future, and our young people are our future. They’re our greatest asset here in the state of Indiana, and Governor Holcomb and I want to work alongside Youth First to ensure that we are protecting and helping our young people so we can take Indiana to the next level,” said Crouch. 

About Youth First, Inc.:
Youth First’s mission is to strengthen youth and families through evidence-based programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success. Youth First partners with 59 schools across 7 counties to provide 39 Master’s level social workers who assess needs, develop and implement prevention plans, and connect students and their families to community resources. Youth First also offers afterschool programs involving parents and caregivers to strengthen families. For more information about Youth First, please visit www.youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.

Youth First, Inc. is pleased to announce that Angela Brawdy has been named Board Chair effective July 1, 2017. Angela is Director of Compensation and Benefits at Shoe Carnival. She has been a Youth First Board member since 2012.

The following individuals have also been named to the Youth First Board of Directors:

  •  Danielle Falconer, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications – Field & Main Bank
  •  Dennis Lamey, Retired Business Executive, Banking Industry
  •  Stacey Lloyd, Human Resources Manager, Shoe Carnival
  • Ann Muehlbauer, Tax Director, Berry Global
  • Kyle Wininger, Vice President, Harding Shymanski & Company

They join 27 other Board members who are responsible for setting the organization’s direction, developing resources and providing the oversight necessary to ensure Youth First meets its mission.