Our Story - Celebrating 25 Years!
Youth Resources Engages Youth in Leadership and Community Service
In 25 years of operation, Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana has listened to the youth voice and involved over 146,139 young people in more than 3,014 service projects. The youth directly served among all of the programs range in age from 5 to 18 and represent the socio-economic, ethnic and cultural diversity of the region. Youth Resources supports its work through contributions from individuals, businesses, corporations, foundations, local and state grants. These funding avenues support an annual budget of approximately $394,000. Through Youth Resources programs, youth and adults are given the opportunity to work together to empower youth, help youth reach their full potential, and create a climate where youth are a top community priority.
Fortunately, others around the community, the state, and the nation have also noticed the great impact that Youth Resources is making on our youth.
The Pilot Program That Started Youth Resources
Youth Resources began in 1987 when the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) began a Youth As Resources pilot program in Evansville, Fort Wayne, and Indianapolis. The program is designed to involve young people in meaningful community service projects. Through these projects, which are planned and implemented by youth with non-profit organizations, such as schools, churches, or other agencies, NCPC established a model for the rest of the nation that provided responsible roles for youth as contributors to the well-being of the community; raised self-esteem; reclaimed youth for their communities; and changed adult perceptions of youth from being the source of problems to being the source of solutions. The results of the two and one-half year pilot period were published in 1990 by NCPC in the book, Changing Perspectives.
Youth Resources and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation Collaborate
In 1993, a collaboration was formed between Youth Resources and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation to merge the national research-based Youth as Resources and Service-Learning models. This merger was funded for two years through the Indiana Department of Education's National Community Service Act grant. This pilot led to a $450,000 direct grant in 1994 and 1997 from the Corporation for National Service to expand the Youth as Resources/Service-Learning model in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Minnesota.
Youth Resources Teens Have Volunteered Thousands of Hours
Since the first year of the Evansville pilot, young people have aided foster families, the elderly, the physically challenged and children of battered women. They raked, mowed and cleaned neighborhood yards and parks. They filmed videos on safety belts, suicide, substance abuse and child abuse. Other projects produced live puppet performances against the use of drugs and alcohol, made teddy bears for children in the hospital, and planted flowers and visited with residents of a nursing home. Houses were constructed for low-income families, bird aviaries built for the zoo, and boardwalks laid for a nature center. Students purchased food for local food banks, collected toys and clothes for needy children at Christmas, and produced a school-wide talent show to raise money for the Humane Society. They tutored, mentored, and motivated other youth to be stronger leaders.
The Concept Behind Make a Difference Grants
The Youth As Resources/Service Learning program is now known as the Youth Resources Make A Difference Grants program. Any young person or youth group in Southwestern Indiana is eligible to apply for a grant ranging from $100 to $1,000, and the program is funded by local businesses and foundations. Since 1987, over 2,008 projects involving 128,591 students have been reached through this program. There has been $713,716 in MAD/YR/SL grants awarded since 1987.
The Expansion of Teen Advisory Council
As the number of youth volunteering through service projects has grown, Youth Resources has expanded as well. The Teen Advisory Council (TAC) began in 1987 with 12 students and now has over 120 youth members from Vanderburgh and Warrick County high schools and has involved over 1,650 teens to date. Throughout the academic year, students meet every other Friday morning at 5:55 a.m. and participate in over 4,000 hours of local community service.
The First Years of TEENPOWER
Also in 1989, Youth Resources received a grant from the National Crime Prevention Council to begin a two year pilot called Teens As Resources Against Drugs. This program focused on youth planned and implemented anti-drug/alcohol preventive projects. A publication, Given the Opportunity, describes the result of this pilot. An outgrowth of Teens As Resources Against Drugs was the first Youth Resources TEENPOWER Leadership Conference, held in 1992. Now in its twenty-first year, the conference participants attend workshops, hear national speakers, form long-term positive friendships with youth of diverse backgrounds, and plan service projects aimed at preventing the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. With a grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, a middle school camp was added in June 2002 for sixth through eighth graders. The evidence-based TEENPOWER Conferences have involved over 3,005 teens to date in activities that strengthen intervention skills, increase alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention knowledge, and build self-esteem and leadership skills.
Youth Resources, Evansville Bar Foundation and Judge Brett Niemeier Create the Vanderburgh County Teen Court
Youth Resources' newest program, in partnership with the Evansville Bar Foundation and Vanderburgh Juvenile Court Judge Brett Niemeier, is the Vanderburgh County Teen Court, which is one of over 1,300 youth court programs in the country involving youth in the restorative justice movement. Youth volunteers, mentored by adult volunteers, serve as youth attorneys, jurors, and bailiff in an actual courtroom setting. These teenagers are directly involved with disposition hearings for first time juvenile offenders in Vanderburgh County who are given the opportunity to "turn over a new leaf". The teen attorneys are allowed to question the respondent and other witnesses and present arguments for an appropriate disposition. It is then up to the teen jurors to deliberate and impose a disposition that may include community service hours, substance abuse prevention classes, letters of apology, and house arrest. Every juvenile defendant must serve at least once as a juror in a future case. Since the first official hearing in 2005, Teen Court has involved over 851 youth volunteers in the roles of prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, bailiff, and jurors and 130 adult attorney volunteers. Additionally, more than 1,975 hours have been completed in local community service by the juvenile offenders as part of their sentencing. Hearings and trainings occur weekly throughout the year.
The History of Youth Coalition
The Evansville Youth Coalition was formed in 1989.This coalition united leaders from the business, medical, legal, government and media areas as well as church leaders, school teachers and administrators, youth-serving directors, parents and youth. The coalition's goals were to educate the community about youth issues and concerns, strengthen existing agencies, identify gaps in services, encourage programs to fill those gaps and advocate appropriately for youth.
This coalition was used as a model throughout the state through the Indiana Youth Institute's institution of Youth Worker Cafes. IYI took over the Youth Coalition in Southwestern Indiana in 2008. The Youth Coalition sponsored such events as a child abuse awareness and prevention conference; a youth/parent conference with Erma Bombeck; a media campaign on "Responsible Parents Make Responsible Youth"; a city-wide survey of perceived issues of violence by youth and adults; annual Youth Worker Hall of Fame awards; monthly networking luncheons; advocacy forums; as well as over thirty-five other activities. One of these activities led to grants from the Indiana Children's Trust and the Indiana Juvenile Justice Institute to begin peer mediation programs in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, Warrick School Corporation, and Evansville Catholic Diocese. In 2000, the Coalition joined the Governor's Youth Development Committee to bring the research-proven Forty Developmental Assets Study to Evansville. Another coalition concern generated a $50,000 grant from the Vanderburgh County Health Foundation to implement abstinence based pregnancy prevention programs.
JUMP, Just Use Mediation Power, is a peer mediation program suggested by the Youth Coalition, which began with a Kids First grant in 1997 to initiate conflict resolution in the Vanderburgh and Warrick public and parochial schools and the YMCA. Students were trained as mediators to help their peers resolve conflict through fair verbal exchange before it escalated to physical and verbal acts of violence. Youth Resources operated the JUMP program from 1997 to 2004 and involved 12,211 students in the mediation process.