Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future

by The Youth Connection, Inc.
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Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
Connecting Detroit Youth to a Brighter Future
The Return On Your Investment!
The Return On Your Investment!

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!

Addressing The Health Concerns In Our Community.
Addressing The Health Concerns In Our Community.
Our Photovoice Gallery!
Our Photovoice Gallery!
Proud Graduates of Strengthening Families 10-14!
Proud Graduates of Strengthening Families 10-14!
Our Families Are Facilitators!
Our Families Are Facilitators!
I Received My Diploma! Now Off To College!
I Received My Diploma! Now Off To College!

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We Shared Our Experiences!
We Shared Our Experiences!

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!

Thank You Youth Connection!
Thank You Youth Connection!
Stronger & Closer As A Family!
Stronger & Closer As A Family!
Detroit Health Department - A Great Partnership!
Detroit Health Department - A Great Partnership!
I Love My Grandma!
I Love My Grandma!
We Know How To Make Good Decisions!
We Know How To Make Good Decisions!

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A DRUG FREE Me!
A DRUG FREE Me!

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!

We Pledge To Be DRUG FREE!
We Pledge To Be DRUG FREE!
Count On Us To Be DRUG FREE!
Count On Us To Be DRUG FREE!
Awarded for Keeping Our Community Safe from Drugs.
Awarded for Keeping Our Community Safe from Drugs.
DEA National Drug Takeback Day!
DEA National Drug Takeback Day!
I Taught My Mother How To Save A Life!
I Taught My Mother How To Save A Life!

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Enjoying The Beautiful Weather!
Enjoying The Beautiful Weather!

Summertime at The Youth Connection is one of our busiest times of the year. While we are still maintaining all CDC guidelines for gatherings during this pandemic, we have over 200 youth currently working in PAID summer internships through our partners at Connect Detroit and the Michigan DNR. These internships are a mix of virtual and in-person (socially distanced) jobs that youth can complete. These first work experiences are so crucial to our teenagers’ development and understanding of financial literacy, work ethic, responsibility, and community that we are very excited to say that over 1,500 young people in our community got their “first job” through The Youth Connection over the years. Do you remember your first job? Do you remember finally getting that first paycheck? Because of your support, the young men and women in The Youth Connection Career Academies are experiencing that right now and will continue to learn, grow, and have fun while making a few bucks the rest of the summer.

But there’s another side to The Youth Connection summer programming that we think is at the heart of every youth’s summer – Fun and Family!

To that end, this summer TYC hosted a series of events to kick-off and promote a “Safe, Fit, and Fun Summer” for families in our community. In May we hosted a Kickoff event that featured our partners from the Detroit Police and Health Departments, the Detroit Pistons, Aberdeen Bike, and the Love Detroit Prevention Coalition.

At this event we featured bike safety information, information about all our youth summer employment opportunities, basketballs featuring the Detroit Pistons logo, gun locks (for home safety), and we also gave away (or sold for $25) over 60 bikes for youth who currently didn’t own a bike of their own. The bikes, which were donated from one of our partners and Board of Directors Mike Casey of Aberdeen Bikes, included mountain bikes from Trek, Specialized, and Cannondale that usually retail between $200 and $500. All the youth were so excited that they were now able to cruise around their neighborhood on their bikes and participate in a healthy, free, and effective form of exercise while enjoying their summer with their friends. We also promoted a community bike ride through our neighborhood and a great day at a local City Recreation Center this summer.

“Enjoying the beautiful weather, we have in Michigan during the summer while finding a healthy, safe, and free form of exercise for youth and their families is a win-win for our families and for our obesity prevention efforts,” said Dr. Grenae Dudley, President and CEO of The Youth Connection. “We cannot thank our partner agencies and departments along with our GlobalGiving family enough for their support that makes these events possible!”

In addition to the fun, we are also focusing on family during the summer through the launch of our Strengthening Families 10-14 program. Over 25 families have attended our trainings this summer that focus on family communication, setting rules and goals, peer pressure refusal, parenting skills, reducing stress in families, and decreasing conflict. The sessions (held one evening per week for 7 weeks), cover all of these topics and more while providing time for a family meal, separate parent and youth sessions with trained facilitators, and plenty of time for both parents and their kids to come together at the end and talk about what they’ve learned and their personal experiences.

Through a discussion with parents and youth that have been through the program and a desire to provide the best programming in Michigan for families, The Youth Connection recently hosted a listening session facilitated by The Detroit Health Department where we spoke with parents and their children who have been through the program to see how we can improve and what they thought would make the session even better.

During the session, The Youth Connection learned so much about what the participants really thought was valuable about our Strengthening Families 10-14 sessions and where we could improve. This feedback is critical to TYC as it falls directly in our philosophy of “Nothing About Us, Without Us!” that guides our programming decisions. After all, who would know best about what is really helpful than the people whom you are trying to help?

The Listening session, and the lessons we learned from it, are all part of a continuous cycle of Quality Improvement that help make our programs the best programs for youth and their families in metropolitan Detroit!

Again, we cannot thank you enough for your support that makes all of our activities possible – whether it’s purchasing a bike helmet for a youth who needs it or providing dollars to support staff training and development that allows us to host cutting-edge trainings like the Strengthening Families 10-14 program. We appreciate your donation that allows us to go the extra mile for the families in our community and change lives, one very important young person at a time, in our neighborhood!

Having A Safe, Fit, and Fun Summer!
Having A Safe, Fit, and Fun Summer!
We're Ready To Bike Ride!
We're Ready To Bike Ride!
Who Wants A Bike?
Who Wants A Bike?
We Are Strong Young Youth With A Great Future!
We Are Strong Young Youth With A Great Future!
Nothing About Us, Without Us!
Nothing About Us, Without Us!

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I Am Somebody!
I Am Somebody!

In the midst of this pandemic the challenges are real and at times seem overwhelming. It’s like running the marathon in a hail storm and wondering will you even see the finish line. Our youth are in this race to win despite it all. Thanks to the amazing support we receive from our GlobalGiving Family and allies like KBP Foods our youth are crossing the finish line in glorious fashion. We have shared the amazing journey on one of our youth who was part of The Youth Connection Career Academies, Laronta. This exceptional young man continues to beat the odds and make us proud. In 2016 we told you about Laronta a 17 year old young man who walked into our lobby after seeing a sign that said The Youth Connection. The Youth Connection Career Academies Director, Ms. Hill was in the lobby when he arrived and he asked her about the program. Sheepishly, he asked if he could volunteer with us. When asked why he wanted to volunteer he confessed that he was ordered by the courts to complete community service. He stated he did not live far from our office and if we would please help him. Of course you know we did.

Laronta came every day and we fell in love with his tenacity and commitment. We had just launched our Ticket to Float program and recommended him to be one of four youth to be hired by the National Park Service River Raisin National Battlefield Park through their youth conservation corps. Over 45 miles from Detroit he was terrified. Laronta was uncomfortable being out of his element and surroundings and begged to stay at The Youth Connection for his summer internship. We said no!

Laronta learned to kayak and taught kayaking to urban youth on the Huron River. He earned certifications in water rescue, CPR and First Aid. He was trained as an interpreter for the Ticket to Float program and helped design the curriculum. He presented to over 1,000 youth and their chaperones on the War of 1812, the fur trade, the use of silicone in the automotive industry and the history of the Wyandotte Indians of the Anderdon Nation. As a result of our work with him and his engagement in the program, he was featured on a Time Warner special regarding the program and water quality.

Near the end of his summer internship he had to return to court. The Judge was so impressed with how he spent his summer he received early release from his probation and was given accolades for his accomplishments. We worked with him to reach out to his brother in Maine who could provide him with more guidance and support. The challenge was to get him there. The money he earned over the summer allowed him to pay back his court ordered restitution and purchase a bus ticket to Maine. Our GlobalGiving donations helped us to send him off with a bang. TYC staff surprised him at our office with luggage, a new winter coat, a camera, snacks to eat on the bus and a lot of love. Staff that did not make it to the office sendoff were at the bus station when he arrived and we all shared a tearful heartfelt goodbye.

Laronta’s dream was to get his high school diploma. He had dropped out of school at 15 and never graduated. He said, “I don’t want a GED. I want to graduate with a diploma. I want to be somebody.” He graduated from High School receving his High School Diploma and subsequently enrolled in Job Corp for electrical engineering.

Fast forward to today five years later to the rest of the story. Laronta is the proud father of a baby girl and now owns his own electrical company.

The good news does not end here. COVID-19 has altered many of our plans and we had to find new ways to stay connected to our youth and families. Addressing their anxieties and depression, cheering them on virtually as they zone out of the zoom meetings. Dropping off food and PPE on their porches and celebrating their graduation milestone in a drive by caravan of TYC staff. But wait it gets better! Did you hear the shouts of excitement coming from Detroit when Ms. Hill announced that 16 of our youth in the midst of the Pandemic completed a 12 week Pre Apprentice Carpentry training program earning their OSHA 30 certification and are waiting to hear confirmation of their State of Michigan Contractor/Supervisor Asbestos Abatement License? As students of continuous learning they are gearing up for the next leg of the race to earn their NCCER (National Center for Construction Education & Research) certification. Above it all they crossed the finish line as full time employees!

Thank you to our GlobalGiving Family for keeping the faith with us. Each of your donations serve as a beacon in the storm showing our youth that they can cross that finish line in the face of incredible odds and can honestly say “I AM Somebody!”

Laronta - Proud Father!
Laronta - Proud Father!
Started My Own Electrical Company!
Started My Own Electrical Company!
The Electrician!
The Electrician!
Pre Apprentice Carpentry Program.
Pre Apprentice Carpentry Program.
Close to The Finish Line!
Close to The Finish Line!

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Organization Information

The Youth Connection, Inc.

Location: Detroit, MI - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @tycdetroit
Project Leader:
Grenae Dudley, Ph.D.
Detroit, MI United States
$63,525 raised of $80,000 goal
 
965 donations
$16,475 to go
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