| Jun 14, 2016
I Can... I Can... No! I WILL Be Somebody!
By Grenae Dudley, Ph.D. | Project Leader
Please excuse our excitement as we send out yet another report on how your support is helping us connect youth to a brighter future. I can share with you that Wayne State University School of Medicine Family Practice MPH program completed an evaluation of our nutrition education program and showed the outcomes we are seeing for that program are proven to be statistically significant. I can tell you that 90% of the students who are in The Youth Connection Career Academies have demonstrated major academic improvement. Be all that as it may our uncontained excitement is focused on one youth – one young man we helped to connect to a brighter future!
Meet Larontae. Two years ago a 17 year old young man walked into our lobby after seeing a sign that said The Youth Connection. The Youth Connection Career Academies Director 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 we did. He had to rotate through every administrative staff in our office completing assignments from answering the phones to shredding thousands of pages of outdated documents. He came every day and we fell in love with his tenacity and commitment. We were recruiting for our summer employment program that he was eligible for but needed the permission of his parent or guardian to be enrolled. That was not forthcoming so we held a place for him and waited until he turned 18 and enrolled him. 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 away. He was terrified. He was uncomfortable being out of his element and surroundings and begged to stay at The Youth Connection for his summer internship. We said no!
Larontae learned to kayak on the Huron River, was certified 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. What an amazing summer!
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 on 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. TYC staff surprised him at our office with luggage, a new winter coat, 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. Larontae’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.” With his brother in Maine, he was able to return to school and maintained a part-time job.
Last week it came full circle. He did it! We called to check on him and he declared that day he was graduating from high school with his diploma! We kept our promise, we connected him to a brighter future. Four days after graduating, Larontae headed to Massachusetts to attend Job Corps for Electrical Engineering.
I Don't Want a GED.. I Want a High School Diploma!
Two Water Rescues So Far!
I'm Here To Help!
A Dream Come True!