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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
Rest If You Must...But Don't You Quit!
Rest If You Must...But Don't You Quit!

Like many of you we are experiencing difficult and challenging times. The Covid-19 pandemic, racial tension, and the disparities that dramatically impact the population that we serve are overwhelming. We do not have the option to close our eyes and hope things will blow over and get better. Our youth and families have needs and concerns that go beyond our traditional services. But if we are to stay true to our mantra of connecting youth to brighter futures we do not have the choice to opt out and say its’s not our job. When our state shut down we had to rethink how we would be able to stay the course and connect youth to futures that were being compromised by the rise of the pandemic in their communities, school closings, and having their basic needs threatened. We also had to remain solvent and see how, when, and where to provide the funded services we knew our youth and families needed.

It was evident that our GlobalGiving Family had faith in us because we saw your donations continue. Your encouragement helped us to persevere. Quitting nor failure were not options. Our staff was sent home to work and we provided them with the tools needed to work remotely. We reviewed each of our grants and determined how we would continue to provide the work and alerted our funders that we were still operating. We reached out to the families we serve and provided them with information on where to obtain food, medical services, and community resources.

The Health, Wellness and Prevention Division is providing resource information to over 200 families. Staff are making calls to check on our families and were a comfort and resource to families trying to cope with unprecedented circumstances. They continued program services and YOU CAN BE PROUD because they worked with the developer of the Strengthening Families 10 -14 at Iowa State University, Catheryn Hockaday, to develop and implement the Strengthening Families 10 -14 virtual program which we piloted implementing all of the sessions with fidelity and resounding results. Hats off to Deb ‘O Rah Mitchell, Frederick Smith, and Adrema Price for a job well done.

Our youth stepped up to the plate and not only showed up but showed out. The Youth Committee for the Love Detroit Prevention Coalition worked with our Drug Free Communities Community Organizer Charise Johnson to implement a virtual Photo voice project, conduct a virtual environmental scan for marijuana dispensaries sign compliance, prepare a zoom presentation for our City Councilman Scott Benson, and present at the National CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) Mid-Year virtual conference in July. They received positive feedback from Councilman Benson (who vowed to follow up on their findings) and rave reviews from many of the over 250 virtual participants at CADCA! A high five to our youth DeAndra, DeAna, Denzell, Justin, David, Mya, Kendell, and Duwan!

The Youth Connection Career Academies was once again asked to serve as a lead agency for the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent summer youth employment program. We were tasked with providing virtual work experiences for over 200 youth. Our staff, led by Nicole Hill, scrambled to create virtual trainings and job sharing opportunities and ensure our youth had the equipment and IT to participate. We have zoomed into homes throughout Detroit and have made a difference. The summer culminated with a drive-by celebration. Staying in their cars we tossed them backpacks full of school supplies, hard cover award winning books from First Books, PPE masks, hand sanitizers, TYC logo stuff, portfolios, award certificates, and more. We also celebrated our graduates and delivered off to college supplies and resources. Staff drove to their homes honking horns, waving banners, wearing mask and feeling proud.

Nicole’s staff continue to provide services to over 100 youth aging out of Foster Care. Our foster care youth already have the odds stacked against them are now having to face a devastating pandemic with the opportunities to gain footing slowly eroding. One of our youth died during this pandemic and, with the support of the United Way, KBP Foods and GlobalGiving, we were able to cover the bulk of the funeral expenses for his home going. TYCCA has been able to help youth who are vulnerable and frightened with limited resources.

As you can see, no one has rested and we will not quit. Each time an email comes that says we received another donation from GlobalGiving we are so excited and above all encouraged. It tells us that we have your support. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for believing in us especially in this time of crisis.

Their Voices Were Heard at a National Conference.
Their Voices Were Heard at a National Conference.
Strengthening Families.
Strengthening Families.
This Is How We Do It!
This Is How We Do It!
2020 TYCCA Graduate Drive By.
2020 TYCCA Graduate Drive By.
TYCCA Drive By Celebration!
TYCCA Drive By Celebration!

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Meeting The Need... Remotely.
Meeting The Need... Remotely.

As we adapt to our shared new reality of sheltering in place and socially distancing, The Youth Connection (TYC) is continuing to do what is in the best interest of our youth. We appreciate your support as we outreach to all of the families and youth in our programs to make sure they have adequate resources, virtual programs, and basic necessities to help them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

How have we responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? Days after Governor Whitmer issued the Shelter-In-Place executive order, TYC launched a social media campaign that targeted the neighborhoods and zip codes we serve through the use of geo-fencing – a virtual fence that sends messages to mobile phones of everybody inside the “fence” – to let families know about resources available to help them.

Since the launch of this campaign, TYC has heard from dozens of families calling / texting / emailing their thanks for this resource that is helping them during this pandemic. As proof that people are receiving our messages and clicking on our link, the new page we created listing these resources has almost 5,000 visits in the past 3 weeks and more are logging on every day!

TYC staff have also responded to the pandemic by reaching out to our families to make sure that we are helping every way we can. The Youth Connection Career Academies staff are keeping in touch with all of the youth in our career development tracts to provide them with virtual trainings so they can continue to receive the benefits of our programming as well as working with them to make sure they have food, have access to kitchen appliances and accessories that can help them cook and store food, and in some cases making sure any shortages of rent are paid so that nobody is kicked out of their living situation. In many of these instances, private donors like you and members of our board of directors are the reason we are able to help these youth in their time of need.

Staff from our Prevention Division have instituted phone trees to stay in touch with all of the families involved in our substance abuse, obesity, and other prevention programming. As part of a “Live, Laugh, and Love” outreach campaign, our staff are keeping in touch to provide prevention messages, asking what they can do to help these families, and even continue to find ways to provide essential programs during the pandemic. As part of the campaign, our tremendous staff are also spreading messages of hope and listening to parents and youth as they talk about what their daily lives are like and what they struggle with. Many of our families and youth have said that just knowing that TYC staff will be calling them every week has been a blessing and something they can count on in these uncertain times. Through it all we will be implementing our largest strengthening families 9 -14 program virtually! Usually we host about 10 – 15 families (20 -30 individuals). We have signed up over 30 families which translates into over 60 individuals. The hallmark of this program is sharing a meal together. Your generosity will help us deliver pizzas each week to each family that participates. It makes a difference.

Finally, what we are most proud of in how our agency is reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic is how our substance abuse prevention youth committee leadership council is taking the lead to conduct essential prevention activities in our communities in spite of the shelter-in-place order. DeAndra, Kendall, Denzell, and David are busy conducting virtual environmental scans of marijuana dispensaries to ensure that those businesses that are not licensed to sell marijuana are not doing so in our neighborhood. They are also working to promote substance abuse prevention education by having their friends, families, classmates, and others take a quiz that is a part of National Alcohol and Drug Fact Week to dispel myths about substance abuse and promote understanding of the challenges people with substance use disorder face. They successfully got over 100 people to take the quiz and learn more about substance abuse prevention by using only the internet. Also, they have submitted a proposal to teach other substance abuse prevention coalitions what they have learned about promoting prevention education during the COVID-19 pandemic at a future conference with thousands of attendees from around the world. We’ll keep you updated on how this amazing group of youth’s proposal is accepted or not.

In closing, we want to ensure all of our donors and supporters that though we may be experiencing challenging times, TYC will continue to fight to connect our families and youth to brighter futures. Allow us to leave you with a quote from one of the parents of a youth in TYC programs – “I’m so thankful that my son is still able to participate with The Youth Connection. It’s something that he can look forward to and I know that there are people out there who are looking out for him.” As a supporter of TYC, she’s talking about us, but she’s also talking about you. We wish you and your family health and safety in the months to come and a promise that we’ll keep doing everything we can to support our youth. Please Stay Well and Stay Safe.

Helping Our Families Every Way We Can!
Helping Our Families Every Way We Can!
We Are Strong And Loving Families!
We Are Strong And Loving Families!
Hear MY Voice!
Hear MY Voice!
Our Youth Making A Difference During COVID-19.
Our Youth Making A Difference During COVID-19.

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The Rest of The Story...
The Rest of The Story...

Happy New Year and our hope and wish to all of our supporters is that this year will find you blessed and highly favored. Thank you for giving your support to The Youth Connection and helping us help our youth. The 2019 year in review was great. Once again we serviced over 5,000 children, youth and families. This year, because of the excellent work that our Youth Connection Career Academies have done, we received a workforce development grant for in-school and out-of-school youth. We were able to forge new partnerships and opportunities to further our goal of connecting youth to brighter futures.  

I2D2: Fit ‘N Fun Family Clubs provided nutrition education to over 500 youth at our area schools and they are clamoring to invite them back again this year. Our parents are beaming as they participate in our Strengthening Families program with their 9 – 14 year olds and have made major changes in how they interact with one another.  

Our holiday celebration was amazing. We have over 65 youth enrolled in our RISE program that focuses on youth who have aged out of foster care. Your contributions have helped us to find them shelter as well as provide them with food, clothing, and resources. Many times they come to their appointments with us hungry and we were able to provide them with food. Their babies have shown up without shoes and jackets and your contributions have helped us to make sure they left us clothed and warm. At our holiday celebration all the children in this program received bikes through our partnership with Aberdeen Bikes. Thanks to Dollar Tree all the children across our programs received toys. The Youth Connection board members, family, friends, Northridge Church, and many TYC partners adopted many of the youth in our RISE program and provided many of the items on their Christmas wish lists. It made us stop and pause when many of our youth ask for gift cards from area markets to purchase food. We also want to recognize Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson and his staff for providing us with over 100 winter coats, hats, and gloves to distribute to our youth. Thanks to all of you because your contributions helped us to purchase gifts for those few youth who did not get adopted.

We have consistently shared with you our successes, acknowledgements and recognitions and how your contributions have helped us make a difference. As we approach this New Year I want to always be mindful of the trying journeys many of our youth undertake. It’s what we did not know that makes this tale of success and failure all the more riveting. A couple of months ago one of our youth, Lauren, who had “successfully” exited our program stopped by and left a book she had written. I was out of the office but the staff was so excited that she had come by and said she appeared to be doing well.

In reading her book I was devastated. She shared a story of addiction, abuse, and terror. She did not leave a number or how to contact her but recently she stopped by again and shared the rest of the story of the journey she went on after leaving our program 11 years ago.

“Dr. D, TYC was safety for me. It was a second chance for family and moms I never had. Every mentor I had in the program treated me like I was their child. You always told me I was special. This program gave me a sense of hope. It was a divine connection from God. TYC staff were genuine. I was not just an assignment, another case load, or another dollar. When I was struggling with my foster grandparents you helped me, you loved on me. Even when I made bad decisions and put y’all in compromising situations y’all still loved me. The program gave me an opportunity to be a part of life without having to address the chaos of my situation.”

Before Lauren exited our program she was hired full time at one of our recreation centers and exited “successfully.” But things took a turn for the worst. She was dealing with serious depression and ran away from her foster grandparents into a life of human trafficking, drug addiction, and terror.

“I wish I had spoken up and shared with you guys what I was going through but I did not want to hurt anyone. If I had spoken up I would not have gotten hurt. But I believe that God places angels in your life. Light always outshine the darkness. So many people in my life were light carriers like you and the staff at TYC. That helped me through focusing on the positive.”  

Lauren found other light carriers who protected her when her life was threaten by the “Dad” (AKA Pimp) and shepherded her through drug rehab.

“I came back because you and Ms. Hill were like Moms to me, like family and family don’t disappear because you aren’t in their face. I wanted to reconnect because I needed to show my appreciation to everyone who treated me normal. I know how it saved me and wanted to give back to share my testimony so others won’t have to suffer in silence. If I had spoken up I would have gotten help. The miracle for me is prevention for others. I want to tell other youth to speak up, say something, and never feel invisible, unheard, or alone. Never let pride take you away from your destiny. I also wanted to know if my picture was still on your board.”

Lauren is now working full time with benefits at a major outreach program helping youth entangled in Human Trafficking. And yes, after 11 years, her picture is still on my board.

The Youth Connection Career Academies.
The Youth Connection Career Academies.
The Youth Connection I2D2 Fit 'N Fun Family Clubs.
The Youth Connection I2D2 Fit 'N Fun Family Clubs.
TYC Substance Abuse Prevention Red Ribbon Day.
TYC Substance Abuse Prevention Red Ribbon Day.
TYC RISE Program Holiday Celebration.
TYC RISE Program Holiday Celebration.
"Left to Tell"
"Left to Tell"

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Giving Back.... That's What We Do!
Giving Back.... That's What We Do!

We are always eternally grateful for the support and encouragement that The Youth Connection receives from those who donate to our efforts. Part of being the recipient of those who give is giving back and passing on the generosity of others. The Youth Connection works to instill in our youth that they can also give back and support their own communities. They are encouraged to identify service projects and lend their hands in improving the communities they live in. Our youth have conducted major neighborhood clean ups where they have boarded up abandoned houses and removed over a ton of trash from vacant lots. They have worked in urban gardens to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for families in surrounding neighborhoods.  

We have shared with you how our youth have conducted environmental scans of targeted communities identifying the liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries that have taken up residence. Based on our youths’ efforts they were responsible for shutting down a marijuana dispensary that was not authorized to operate. Our youth provided input and recommendations for a social media campaign that pushed prevention messages to the phones of youth who were in the parking lot or inside a liquor store or a marijuana dispensary. Having the youth engaged has it challenges. We had to scrap the original campaign we developed and shared with them because they did not like how their communities were portrayed. The success of their revised campaign was amazing.

Four of our youth volunteered to go with staff to Grapevine, Texas, for the Mid-Year CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) Conference where they spent four days participating in the Youth Leadership Initiative. During these sessions our youth engaged in activities from fundamentals of coalition building and strategic planning to evaluation and research. They now have the responsibility of sharing their experience with other youth and teaching them how they can be community change agents. De’Andra, the chair of our youth coalition, shared:

“I have been with The Youth Connection for five years and each year I am exposed to new opportunities and how I can make a difference. I went to Washington DC where I had the opportunity to meet with our representatives including Senator Debbie Stabenow and shared my concerns about drug use among students and other youth.

Denzell is also an active member of the youth coalition and he indicated how important it is for youth to make a difference in their own communities.

“At the Mid-Year CADCA Conference I learned about what they called the strategic prevention framework and how to identify the concerns that we see and how youth can address them. We drew pictures of what substance use looked like in our neighborhoods and we are going to share them with other youth in our coalition and work on what we can do about it.”

Involving youth as change agents is rewarding and encouraging. The opioid epidemic is impacting communities across the country. Data shows that even youth can be engaged to help save lives. Our data has also shown that in our targeted neighborhoods a large number of the overdoses and overdose deaths are among seniors 55 and older. Our youth have asked to be trained on how to save a life. To date we have conducted Narcan trainings to learn how to reverse opioid overdoses for over 375 youth. These youth receive training and a Narcan kit that can be used to help people in their communities. Giving Back…That’s What We Do!

We wish to thank all of the donors who continue to support The Youth Connection. Your generous support of The Youth Connection has allowed us to teach our youth that they are braver than they believe, stronger than they seem and smarter than they think! (Adapted from A.A. Milne)

Displayed Where It Can Make A Difference.
Displayed Where It Can Make A Difference.
Learning to Become Change Agents.
Learning to Become Change Agents.
Telling Our Story to Senator Debbie Stabenow.
Telling Our Story to Senator Debbie Stabenow.
Learning What We Can Do About It!
Learning What We Can Do About It!
375 Youth Received Narcan Training to Save Lives.
375 Youth Received Narcan Training to Save Lives.

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Mama I Made It!
Mama I Made It!

I am sure for many of the parents who read our report you have this sense of pride for your children’s accomplishments and successes. This is the time of the year when many of you are going to graduations, prom parties, and college send offs. At The Youth Connection we are feeling that same sense of accomplishment and pride. Against all odds, despite the statistics, with sheer determination and willpower a large number of our youth are graduating, some with honors. They are attending proms looking like princes and princess and being accepted into colleges around the country! We attended graduations and prom parties. We screamed when the kid who challenged our resolve brought in his acceptance letter to Grand Valley State University. We have acceptance letters plastered on the bulletin boards and prom pictures and graduation photos proudly displayed in our offices. They made it and like proud parents it was hard to hold back tears. Arion shared, “The Youth Connection made me stay focus through all the struggles I had. When my mom passed away you guys were here for me. You taught me how to become a man. I listened to the lectures and lessons of the people you brought in to speak to us. When I got to meet Mayor Duggan I knew I was somebody. Y’all always had something good for me –that’s why I always came back.”

The college students from last year have come back for the summer and are now part of our summer youth employment. Mya (3.0 her first year!) is back from Central Michigan University and indicated, “There is no place like The Youth Connection. I had great experiences that help me prepare for my first year in college. When I share my experiences with my friends they are surprised that I got to speak at a national conference in Florida that The Youth Connection took me to!” Your support has helped us make sure college application fees were paid. You helped us secure official copies of birth certificates, social security cards and driver licenses.

Your support has also paid for a book of poems, pictures and thoughts that were powered by prevention. Our middle schoolers that participated in our LifeSkills program submitted their poems and pictures on self-image, self-improvement, making decisions, underage drinking, smoking, using drugs, communication, anxiety, and hope.

Jeremiah S. – 7th grade Dove Academy

Self-esteem is the dream,

That can never be broken.

I was born a legend,

A legend awoken.

 

I’m confidential,

I’m beneficial,

I made my own way,

So now I’m an official.

 

I’m making these moves,

Every now and then,

It’s in my name,

I’m always for the win.

 

I’m stuck at the top,

I could never be stopped,

I cannot be brought down,

Because I’m not a clown.

 

I deserve a crown,

My head up off the ground,

100’s stay around,

My ticket out of town.

 

We combined their creativity in a book and made sure each youth that contributed received their personal bound copy. We wish you could have all been there to see their faces!

We have come to realize it is not the required outcomes of our funding sources that make our programs successful. It is the dedication and commitment of a staff who see our youth as their own, who hold them to high expectations because we know what they are capable of becoming. Our grants pay for the programming and certain services but the help we get from partners like you contribute to our ability to feed them when they come to us hungry. Clothe them when they tell us they do not have the appropriate outfit for a job interview. Rent a van when they have been evicted and all that they own is on the streets. There are no line items in these budgets that cover the cost of getting up in the middle of the night to secure a shelter for one of our kids who call us and say he has no place to lay his head.

We worked with the former budget director for the state of Michigan and she helped us formulate a Return on Investment for dollars contributed to The Youth Connection. It was determined for every dollar we receive the return on that investment is $20.17. So for every dollar you donate to us please rest assured you have made a tremendous investment in the future of our youth. Just think, when we reach our $50,000 goal through Global Giving the return on that investment will be $608,500. Thank you so much for your invest in us!

Powered By Prevention!
Powered By Prevention!
High Expectations!
High Expectations!
Prom Prince & Princess.
Prom Prince & Princess.
Inspired By Prevention.
Inspired By Prevention.
Home From College and Making A Difference!
Home From College and Making A Difference!

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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
$41,887 raised of $50,000 goal
 
634 donations
$8,113 to go
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