This school year, 1,339 students have benefitted from a new partnership between Youth First and Orleans Community Schools and Springs Valley Community Schools. Both Orange County school corporations have welcomed a Youth First Social Worker in their buildings to serve the social and emotional well-being of students. Youth First also launched two Family First programs for students and families in Orange 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 76 schools across 10 counties in Indiana.
At Orleans Elementary School, Youth First Social Worker Brandy Terrell works 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. Principal Jimmy Ellis says the value of having a Youth First Social Worker in his building is immeasurable. “We feel very fortunate to be partnering with Youth First to place a social worker in our elementary school. Having Brandy Terrell in our building working with students has greatly benefited our school. She has provided services to students to enhance their emotional well-being and to help improve their academic performance. We look forward to continuing this partnership with Youth First for years to come,” says Ellis.
Youth First Social Worker Kacie Shipman serves students at Springs Valley Elementary School and Springs Valley High School. By working with Ms. Shipman, young people are learning how to manage emotions, cope with challenges, and motivate themselves to achieve their goals. Superintendent Dr. Trevor Apple says, “Our partnership with Youth First has been such a blessing to our students, families, and teachers. Our social worker, Kacie Shipman, has made a positive impact on the social and behavioral well-being of our students. Teachers and administrators are thrilled with the partnership we have developed with Youth First!”
Youth First launched two Family First programs this spring for Orange 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. Both Orleans Elementary School and Springs Valley Elementary School were excited to offer the Family First program for the first time this year to their families.
With a mission of strengthening youth and families, Youth First celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018. Youth First President & CEO Parri O. Black states, “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. Youth First is here to help, listen, and provide a systematic approach to prevention in partnership with educators and parents.
Our school partners, along with the support we receive from the community, are critical to achieving Youth First’s mission.”
The launch of the Youth First prevention model was the result of the Lilly Endowment’s Comprehensive Counseling Initiative for Indiana K-12 students awarded to eligible school corporations. Sustaining the services into future years will come from school partner fees and the community supporting Youth First with donations and private investment. Youth First will need to raise $90,000 annually from Orange County citizens to support its school-based social work program.
Black explains there is more interest for Youth First beginning with the 2019-2020 school year: “We are thrilled that Paoli Community Schools are prepared to partner with Youth First if we are able to secure the funding. To fulfill their desire for a Youth First Social Worker embedded in Paoli school buildings, we will need to raise another $45,000 annually. We invite anyone who cares about the healthy development of young people and Orange County schools to support Youth First.”
To make a donation to Youth First, visit www.youthfirstinc.org and donate online.