Youth First’s 17th annual Passport to Adventure Auction will be held on April 11, 2019 at the DoubleTree Hotel Ballroom in downtown Evansville, IN.

The doors will open at 4:30 pm. The silent auction will begin at 5:00 pm and the live auction will take place at 7:30 pm. Light refreshments will be available throughout the evening.

CLICK HERE to view our auction items. New items will be added as they are received. Online bidding will begin on March 28th.

Gift Supports the Social and Emotional Needs of Morgan County Students

Home Bank awarded a $30,000 challenge gift to Youth First, Inc. Tuesday to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of students in Martinsville and Mooresville schools. The funds will help Youth First grow its highly impactful model of prevention in Morgan County, but other donors must also match the bank’s investment in order for the gift to be fully utilized.

Youth First partners with school districts to embed social workers in schools, where they 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, and similar outcomes for young people.

“Our children are growing up in an increasingly complex and challenging world that puts them at greater risk for substance use, bullying, social media abuses, and other harmful behaviors,” said Parri O. Black, President & CEO of Youth First, Inc. “Home Bank’s investment is critical to furthering Youth First’s mission in Morgan County. Working together, we can protect and heal the hearts of more young people and their families.”

Home Bank’s commitment comes with a challenge for community members.

“After learning about Youth First’s approach to prevention and the impactful results, Home Bank employees wanted to get behind it in a big way, so that more children and families benefit in Morgan County,” said Dan Moore, Home Bank President. “We encourage everyone who cares about kids to join Home Bank in donating to Youth First.”

Home Bank will match the community’s support dollar for dollar for up to $30,000.The Kendrick Foundation has already joined the effort to back Youth First’s work in Morgan County with a $15,000 grant.

Youth First started at 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. Youth First will launch services at Paul Hadley Middle School in Mooresville in January with the support from Home Bank, the Kendrick Foundation, and the school district.

Donations 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.

Youth First, Inc. celebrated growth in Warrick County schools and honored Warrick County supporters and donors at its annual Heart of Youth First luncheon, presented by German American Bank and sponsored by Edward Jones, on Wednesday, November 14, 2018, in Castle High School’s Community Room.

Speakers included Gene Raber, Principal of Lynnville Elementary School, who emphasized the value of Youth First’s services and programs: “In today’s times, many children have a hard time simply being ready to do well at school.  Some students have experienced trauma… More children than ever experience anxiety.  Some families simply find it difficult to make ends meet.  Some families are in the midst of crisis.”

“Over the last few years, our society is seeing the outcomes of NOT addressing mental health, emotional needs, or supporting those individuals in psychological crisis. The Youth First Social Workers in our Warrick County schools provide a very important reinforcement of our schools’ curriculum, hard-working and supportive teachers, staff and administration.”

“It is my hope that we can continue to expand this critical program for our students so that students in every Warrick County school can have access to a Youth First Social Worker.”

Other speakers included Phil DeLong, Warrick County advocate and former principal of Castle High School; Lori Lofton, Warrick County advocate; and Youth First Social Workers and Warrick County students who have benefited from Youth First’s programs and services.

Youth First, Inc. honored former Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation educator and administrator Steve Fritz at its 11th Annual Breakfast of Champions event on Tuesday, October 23rd at St. Vincent Manor in Evansville.

Fritz 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 Fritz.

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke proclaimed October 23rd, 2018, as “Steve Fritz, Champion of Youth First Day.”

Through his 35-year career with the EVSC and tireless passion for helping young people thrive, Steve has impacted thousands of lives. The students he taught, the players he coached, and the teachers he mentored all credit him with contributing to their success.  As a founding Youth First Board Member, Steve has championed the continued growth and success of the organization for the past 20 years.

Proud to have been born and raised in Evansville, Steve is a graduate of North High School, the University of Evansville and Indiana State University. In addition to his involvement with Youth First, Steve was also profoundly impacted by his involvement with YMCA’s Camp Carson, where he served as a camp counselor and continues today as a Board member.

Breakfast of Champions attendees enjoyed remarks from EVSC Superintendent Dr. David Smith, YMCA of Southwestern Indiana CEO Derrick Stewart, Youth First President & CEO Parri O. Black and Founder Dr. William Wooten, as well as friends and family of Fritz.

Youth First, Inc. is pleased to announce that Adam Novello has been named Regional Development Officer effective October 8, 2018. Adam lives in Bloomington, Indiana, and will handle fundraising and advocacy efforts in Monroe, Morgan, and Orange counties.

Adam brings with him nearly five years of philanthropy, event planning, and relationship management experience. Adam was formerly Curator of Education at South Bend’s HealthWorks! Kids’ Museum. Previously, he worked at The Children’s Museum in Indianapolis. Adam is a graduate of Indiana University.

In his new role at Youth First, Adam joins a growing development team that is responsible for marketing, event, volunteer, and philanthropic efforts across the organization’s ten-county service area. He will manage advocates and supporters, as well as oversee all fundraising efforts, to ensure Youth First fulfills its mission.

Youth First protects and heals the hearts of children and strengthens families, resulting in more positive, productive citizens and a stronger, healthier community. The agency is best known for embedding highly trained Youth First Social Workers who act as specialized mentors in area schools, assisting students, parents, and educators. It also provides Family First and other proven programs in life skills training and substance abuse prevention.

Drive a brand new Ford and give back to Youth First! During the month of December, D-Patrick’s Evansville Ford Dealership will donate $10 to Youth First for every test drive.  Visit their Evansville Ford Dealership online! Please set a date in December and invite the family to test drive for Youth First!

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.

At a check presentation on July 16th, Youth First, Inc. was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Vanderburgh Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation Alliance, Inc., through its Community Good Grants Program. The grant will fund Youth First social workers in Vanderburgh County schools to help address the social and emotional needs of young people by building caring relationships, fostering a readiness for positive change, boosting resiliency and teaching valuable life skills to help prevent substance abuse and other risky behaviors. These specialized mentors offer free-of-charge support to students, parents, families, and teachers. 

“It’s clear to see how Youth First is making an impact with kids and helping them feel safe. We want Vanderburgh County to be a great place to raise kids and call home, and Youth First helps our community accomplish that. The impact is growing and we are excited to be a part of it,” stated Sean Ferguson, President of the Vanderburgh Community Foundation Advisory Board. 

“Our children are growing up in a complex and challenging world that puts them at greater risk for substance use, suicide, violence and harmful behaviors,” said Parri O. Black, President & CEO of Youth First, Inc. “The Vanderburgh Community Foundation’s investment is critical to achieving Youth First’s mission. Working together, we can protect and heal the hearts of more young people and their families. As with all donations received in the 10 counties we serve, this award stays in the home area of the donation to support children in that county’s schools.” 

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 74 schools across 10 counties to provide 54 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 the Vanderburgh Community Foundation:
The Vanderburgh Community Foundation is one of nine county affiliate foundations of the Community Foundation Alliance, Inc. It serves as a charitable resource devoted to its local community and seeks to help people make meaningful gifts that improve life in Vanderburgh County today and for generations to come. 

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.