Every community has challenges it has to face – especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on all of our lives. We’re located in the Osborn Community in Detroit – a community full of families and youth, businesses and churches, that has its own unique challenges. The opioid epidemic has touched many of us in our personal and professional lives, and together with the Detroit DEA, our substance use prevention funder Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN), the City of Detroit Health Department and our youth we are making a difference to save lives and stop overdoses in Detroit.
To help combat this trend, The Youth Connection has trained over 5,500 people in the past five years how to reverse an opioid overdose with Naloxone. We’ve trained police officers and nurses, school teachers and church members, and most importantly, our youth. To date, individuals we have trained have saved 90 lives.
We have recently expanded our partnership with the DEA to include helping prevent overdoses in the 48205 zip code. We have used targeted social media marketing to recruit people to our Narcan trainings (a medication administered to reverse opioid overdoses), youth and adult substance use prevention trainings, and worked with other youth-serving organizations to get the word out about prevention. Our substance use prevention staff utilizes evidence-based curriculum and real-world lessons on communications, avoiding peer pressure, advertising tricks, and other lessons to help increase the protective factors around our youth so they can become the successful adults we know they can be.
The Youth Connection Career Academy staff is beaming with pride as our high-school seniors are turning in copies of college acceptance letters to go on our bragging board. Hats off to Mario who got accepted at Henry Ford Community College and Central State University. A way to go to Ariel who will be going to Wayne County College District, a hardy well done to Patrice who accepted the invite to attend Wayne State University out of the seven acceptance letters she received. Crossing the finish line is Tareq who will be attending Youngstown University in the fall.
Our partnership with the Detroit Police Department has expanded to not only include Narcan training for all of their police officers and cadets, but also to working with the Detroit Police Explorers, a group of young men and women who participate in projects and improving the communities they live in with the police department. These students with DPD conducted compliance checks on local tobacco retailers to make sure they were not selling tobacco and vape products to minors. They’re currently planning a youth lead town hall inviting city leaders and business owners to discuss their results and share their concerns.
We are so proud of the youth we work with in our programs, and we wanted to make sure we tell you, our supporters, and donors, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We will continue to make sure that every young person in our program is connected to a brighter future and our community is better because of our work.
Your support has ensured that our youth have access to technology to help them develop their presentations and collaborate to work on community projects. We have used GlobalGiving funds to make sure youth are able to stay at universities and receive degrees, as well as pay for training that get them into their dream jobs.
But we also wanted you to know that our work has evolved into saving lives in a literal manner. Close to 90 people to date have been saved by somebody who was trained by The Youth Connection (and that number continues to grow each day). We appreciate your support and look forward to continuing our work helping students find success in life.
Thank you so much for your belief in our staff and our kids. We’ll keep doing our best to make our community proud!
As 2022 draws to a close, we would like to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to each one of your who supported The Youth Connection this year! The funding you provided allowed us to go above and beyond for our youth and their families to give them everything they need to succeed. While our grant funders give us a lot to ensure our students’ success, there are many things they need that our grant funding cannot provide. That’s where heroes like you come in!
Donations like yours allow us to pay the final bit of tuition for one of our kids to continue her education at Ferris State University. Also, when one of our families lost a child due to COVID-19, we helped cover part of the unmet cost of the funeral. Your funding also allowed us to offer paid summer internships to some deserving young men and women in Detroit who did not meet the eligibility requirements of our main funding source (one of our kids was 2 months too young – but still willing to earn while they learned!). Throughout the year, your support has allowed us to continue our year of giving to those families most in need in metro Detroit. We simply cannot thank you enough!
Your support also allowed The Youth Connection to take the lead in our bi-annual DEA Prescription Drug Takeback event in October! In partnership with the Detroit DEA, Health Department, and Police Department, The Youth Connection hosted drug takeback sites on October 29th at 24 different locations in the City. Together we got close to 400 pounds of pills out of the community where they can be disposed of properly! We once again were recognized as an outstanding partner by the DEA for our efforts to stop people from flushing unused or expired medication down the toilet or throwing them away in the garbage.
In addition to coordinating the takeback day, volunteers from The Youth Connection and our Drug Free Communities Coalition, the Love Detroit Prevention Coalition, helped the DEA send out all of the materials for takeback events in Michigan and Ohio. Over a dozen volunteers packed hundreds of boxes to ship out to local law enforcement. Our help allowed the DEA to get done in one morning what would normally take them several days. The Youth Connection and our volunteers were recognized by the DEA for their efforts and we’re all looking forward to helping the DEA again next April!
The Youth Connection also participated in a first-time event this year – we co-hosted a Health and Wellness Conference with mothers who were participants in all of our programming throughout the year. In addition to many workshops on improving their health, participants were also treated to a massage, manicure, and acupuncture treatments while enjoying a wonderful weekend retreat at the Southfield Westin. The event was a fantastic way for TYC to spread the message of the importance of self-care to caregivers before the holiday season began!
Finally, in response to the continued rise of opioid overdose deaths, The Youth Connection has trained over 600 people this year in metro Detroit on how to use Narcan to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose while giving them a Narcan kit with 2 doses of the medicine included! One of the biggest audiences for our trainings have been local law enforcement agencies and in the past year these front-line heroes The Youth Connection trained have saved 36 lives! Above all else, we are most proud of our small part in saving the lives of our neighbors and community members.
As 2022 ends, we again want to say thank you for your support of The Youth Connection and the families and communities we serve. With your help, we will continue to provide as much as we can to ensure all of our youth are connected to a bright future! Thank you!
Nonprofits across the world are often asked to step up when bureaucracies cannot not alter their course to effectively engage those who may be caught up in their wash. We are asked to go where the brave dare not go and put to right the challenges faced by those who remain unnamed. We don our makeshift armor and charge ahead knowing the way will be hazardous and costly. When we are granted funds, we are asked as a condition of receiving the grant how will you sustain your efforts? We say to ourselves, “your guess is as good as mine!” but out loud and on the application, we cite the promises from other funders and our plans to reapply. When disaster strikes our country, often our funds are cut or reallocated, but we are asked to step it up, and the necessity for doing so glares back at us with a need that is overwhelming. Because of our mission, (The Youth Connection is committed to connecting all youth and families in Metro Detroit to a brighter future by providing quality programs and supportive services), we are obligated to step up even more. Pivoting from what we are funded directly for to that which is necessary to stay on mission, we forge ahead knowing we have a secret weapon…YOU. Our GlobalGiving family has consistently been there to support our unfunded efforts and help us stay on mission. You have allowed us to buy food and clothes for families in need when it is an unallowable cost in our grants. You have paid for tuition to help our youth finish that last year of college, connecting them to a brighter future. You have given us the resources to pay for traffic tickets that allowed one of our youth to drive to work and earn money to go to trade school. You have fortified our resolve to speak up to the powers that be to assure equity in resources and opportunity. Thank you, thank you thank you!
What is the return on your investment? It is the pride we hope you feel when we share with you the rest of the stories. Twelve of our youth graduated from school this year. Nine of them graduated from high school, with eight going on to college, and one to trade school. Three are graduating from college and all are going on to graduate school! In our efforts to throw them a party they all said, “Sorry we are busy on every date you offered!” Busy working and getting ready to go off to school.
What is the return on your investment? Earning the trust, you have in us when our families graduate from our Strengthening Families program, and we recruit and have the developer of the program from Iowa State University personally train six (6) of the parents who completed the program to be facilitators! Even better, imagine yourselves sitting at the 2022 Annual Conference of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) this July with representatives from around the country. Four of our youth, along with our community organizer, presented at this conference asking participants to engage their youth to help them determine what in their communities serve as risk and protective factors. Our youth shared the research they conducted using surveys to determine what were risk and protective factors in their communities, why youth were smoking marijuana, and how to address mental health concerns. They presented their Photovoice projects and their environmental scans. They spoke to how they presented their findings to their principal, the director of college and career readiness, and the deputy superintendent of our school system, asking those in leadership what they are going to do about their concerns and encouraging them to add more after school activities. Their session ended with the participants giving them a standing ovation!
What is the return on your investment? Knowing your dividends include The Youth Connection receiving a certificate of appreciation from our Substance Use and Mental Health provider indicating that they are proud to honor and recognize us with the Opioid Lifesaving Award and thanked us for our dedication, commitment, and service to our community! AND they announced it at a statewide conference! But do you know what was more heartfelt and rewarding than receiving the award? When a message came during the conference from one of the youths who graduated from our program. A youth who experienced challenges and unimaginable trauma saying, “Dr. D this is LS, I love you and I am now the coordinator for a substance use program!”
That’s the return on your investment in us. Thank you for helping us connect our youth to better futures!
The challenges we have all faced over the last two years have been enormous. As a nonprofit organization our responsibilities have not been just to implement and meet the requirements of our contracts, but to take on the responsibility of assuring many of the families we serve basic needs and concerns are addressed. We cannot provide nutrition education if our families are having challenges securing food. That is why we partner with our food pantries to assure we can connect our families to fresh fruits and produce as well as staples. Our youth cannot participate in our online programs if they do not have laptops or connectivity. That is why we partner with Comcast Internet Essentials and a few of our funders to provide them with high-speed internet or a hot spot and laptop if they need it.
We have expanded our partnerships to provide the warm handoffs to assure our families have what they need to weather the storm. A careful review of our contracts does not pay us to find shelter for homeless youth, or transportation to get a mother to her job. Several of our contracts exclude paying for food or providing gift cards to local restaurants. That is why your support is so critical to our efforts to connect youth to a brighter future! Dollars received from GlobalGiving have purchased a number of life-critical items for our students and their families and we wanted to start this report off by saying Thank You!
One of the key lessons we’ve learned when providing services to youth is the notion of “Nothing about us without us!” What this means is that you include the population you serve in your planning and decision-making processes before you do anything else. This way, you get the insight from people on what will help them best and you also get buy-in from young people for what you are trying to accomplish. In short – your respect people when you listen to people.
One of the best illustrations of this maxim is our Strengthening Families Program 10-14 Listening Sessions we sponsor quarterly here at The Youth Connection. SFP 10-14 is a program that gives tools, skills, and strategies to youth and their caregivers to build stronger families. After each quarter, though, we take a break to hear from the youth and their parents who went through the program on what they liked and didn’t like; what could have been better; and what they liked best about the program.
This way, we build in continual improvement into our programming and clearly learn what would work better. And who better to learn from them the people who participated in the program? We utilize a third party (one of our great partners – the Detroit Health Department) to conduct the listening session so there is no bias or hesitancy to talk about what they didn’t like about the problem.
Through this process we’ve made many changes to our Strengthening Families Program 10-14 and the process helped us receive increased funding for the program, too. It’s a win-win both for our agency as well as the future families that we will serve.
Another example of how The Youth Connection listens to our youth is through the surveys we have youth in our programming complete. We’ve revised entire program strategies due to feedback from our youth and we think we’re a better service agency because of it. For example, after youth in our substance use prevention program noted in their post-program survey that they wish they had the information we gave them earlier, we immediately conducted a few key interviews and realized we should be targeting middle school students instead of high school students for these trainings. Surveys from middle school surveys reinforced this decision as we are now reaching students prior to any interaction with substance use. Prevention is rooted in the ideology that you stop an issue before it effects young people.
Finally, we would like to thank all our partners (including parents of the youth we serve) who are so critical to teaching us the best practices we utilize today. Never stop learning – whatever you do! And never stop giving – we are so appreciative of those of you who donate to The Youth Connection. Thank you!
As we draw close to the end of 2021, The Youth Connection would like to thank every one of our supporters for a fantastic year of connecting youth to brighter futures! As we continue to move forward through the pandemic, TYC programs that support youth and their families are even more important to help those in need. We are also taking time this holiday season to celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of our students.
Your support of our kids this fall allowed us to take the lead in three important substance abuse prevention events – Red Ribbon Week, our annual Fall drug takeback in partnership with the DEA, and providing Narcan training to members of our community.
Red Ribbon Week is our nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention awareness campaign held every year in late October. This year, The Youth Connection celebrated substance use prevention in three schools in Detroit – Dove Academy, Pershing High School, and Detroit Public Schools Academy. We also shared the event with the Detroit Police Department (DPD) Explorers, DPD’s youth program. We held pandemic-appropriate rallies, asked students to sign pledges to be drug-free, and distributed “Drug Free Zone” mats and masks to all the schools and students. Overall, over 1,000 students participated in our program!
We also partnered this fall with the DEA and with that our national reputation continues to grow! The DEA reached out to us to help facilitate a crew to pack the DEA take back boxes for Michigan and Ohio. Members of our coalition (the Love Detroit Prevention Coalition) participated and packed thousands of boxes. The DEA wishes to recognize our efforts and the efforts and invited TYC to the DEA headquarters in Detroit on November 23rd to receive special recognition for our efforts to keep prescription drugs our of our community!
In partnership with the Detroit Health Department and the Detroit Police Department we worked to coordinate the October DEA drug take back for residents to dispose of their unwanted/unused/expired medications. It is so critical that we dispose of medication properly, instead of flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away in the garbage. The take back in October netted over 150 lbs. of pills! This brought the total pounds of pills taken back this year in April and October to over 600 lbs.! We have been cited by numerous partners for our efforts to improve the take back in Detroit.
Finally, to further help combat the opioid overdose crisis, we trained and distributed 1,020 Narcan kits to individuals including over 400 youth this year. Since 2018 we have trained over 4,550 individuals including every Detroit Police Precinct and several graduating classes from the Police Academy. One of the youths that participated in our Narcan Training at the 11th Precinct shared what she learned with her mother after the training. She told us that while she was in school her mother called and indicated that a neighbor appeared to be experiencing and opioid overdose. She talked her mother through what she was taught including placing the neighbor in the recovery position until help arrived. They were successfully able to reverse the overdose! We are so proud of our student and her mother and feel so strongly about providing Narcan training to the community to help save lives!
As we wrap up 2021 and look forward to 2022, we want to say thank you one last time for your support. With your help, we will continue to provide the best future for our youth and their families. Thank you!
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