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
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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We Can Make A Difference!
We Can Make A Difference!

With your amazing support and thanks to the strength of our partnerships, The Youth Connection is full of hope as we get ready to start a brand-new year. 2020 has been a year of extreme change, as we transitioned our youth programming to the virtual world and learned quickly that zoom wasn’t just a sound effect made during cartoons. We lost one of our young people to senseless gun violence and had to stand in with the family to cover the cost of the funeral. But, in the midst of all the change, tragedy, and hard work, we constantly felt the virtual love from our supporters, partners, and friends. For that we would like to say thank you!

Your support helped our youth to attend virtual conferences where they presented in front of hundreds of people and received an award from Youth United for their hard work helping prevent substance abuse in our communities.

Your support also provided the funding necessary for our Strengthening Families program to continue helping parents and youth in Detroit after one of our partners could no longer support the program expenses despite excellent outcomes and an outpouring of support from current and former participants.

Finally, many of our friends, donors, and youth who graduated from our programs in the past called, emailed, or contacted us on social media to make sure our staff and our kids were doing ok during the pandemic. These simple gestures mean the world to us and our kids and give us the strength to continue our work and to reach our goals despite tremendous obstacles. We can’t thank you enough to everybody who checked in on us like we were family this past year.

Looking forward to 2021, though, fills us with optimism and hope for a brighter future for our young men and women. All our current programs, from The Youth Connection Career Academies that helps students launch their careers or get into college, to our RISE program that helps foster youth who recently were exited from the foster care system find stable housing, employment, and other supports are continuing through the help of our funding partners. We helped over 175 youth gain virtual summer jobs this summer to give them that “first job” experience despite the restrictions of COVID-19.

We are seeing rates of substance use decrease amongst youth and adults who participate in our prevention programming. We are making a difference in the fight against opioid overdoses and deaths in our community through our FREE Narcan training (If you’re interested in attending a virtual Narcan training to learn how to save a life, visit http://www.theyouthconnection.org/narcan-trainings). In the past year, everyday people trained to use Narcan by The Youth Connection helped save 13 people from dying from opioid overdoses! We ARE making a huge difference in our community and, on top of that, in the lives of the young men and women that we serve.

Because of the hard work by our Prevention programming team, The Youth Connection is the ONLY agency in the United States that is certified to deliver our Strengthening Families Program 10-14 virtually! As you browse some of the pictures of families who graduated from this program below, know that your support made all the difference in the world to helping families become stronger, communicate better, and support each other in a lasting way during this tumultuous pandemic.

Finally, as we wrap up 2020 and look forward to 2021, 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 Asked Our Councilman What Will You Do?
We Asked Our Councilman What Will You Do?
It's About Partnership!
It's About Partnership!
Through the Pandemic... Our Youth Shined!
Through the Pandemic... Our Youth Shined!
Proof Positive!
Proof Positive!
It Starts With Me!
It Starts With Me!

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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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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
$48,901 raised of $80,000 goal
 
764 donations
$31,099 to go
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