Juvenile Services of Wyandotte County will receive a $60,000 grant from the state of Kansas to launch a pilot program to help improve the lives of at-risk youth.
The program, 180 Degrees, will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 20, the day following the birthday of the late Martin Luther King Jr.
The grant is being awarded in partnership with the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools district and Heartland 180, which is a new nonprofit organization.
Heartland 180’s goal is, “to passionately help youth improve their lives by accepting personal accountability and to continuously strive toward the goal of achieving their full potential, ‘one degree’ at a time.”
This interactive and participatory after-school pilot program will use a comprehensive research-based curriculum provided by the national 180 Degrees Program (www.180-degrees.com). Based in Salem, Oregon, the organization has a number of sites mostly located in the Pacific Northwest. The program has also been established and growing in a number of other locations in the Southeast and internationally.
The program will require the youth to meet for three hours a day, four days out of the week and will serve up to 50 Wyandotte County youth between the ages of 11 and 17 who are currently enrolled in a Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools educational program.
The after-school program will serve youth who are either facing sentencing for a new offense or a sanction for violating conditions of their supervision, or have multiple unexcused absences.
“The strength of this program is that it has a built-in evaluation mechanism that documents performance measures related to GPAs, class attendance and referrals. This not only helps to hold the youth accountable to their goals for success, but it also reveals the value of the program to the community at large,” said Pastor Jonas Hayes, senior pastor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church of Overland Park.
Hayes knows first-hand about the success of faith-based community and juvenile programs like 180 Degrees. He started a similar pilot program in Greenville, Miss. His solid track record of improving successful life, pro-social and education skills led to program growth, which resulted in serving more than 200 youth annually. The program also eventually expanded to serving youth in surrounding states like Arkansas and Louisiana.
“The community I served in Mississippi identified a challenge with area youth and truancy. In the first year, we saw over a 50 percent increase in class attendance, which led to a stronger performance in school,” Hayes said.
The pastor’s efforts were documented and honored in the film, “Delta 180: Changing Lives in the Mississippi Delta.” The film captures the success of the 180 Degrees Program in the 2011-2012 school year and powerfully tells the story of the youth who made positive strides in changing their behavior and the impact this had on the whole community.
“I can only imagine the impact that this will have on our community now that it has been brought here,” said Max Mendoza, a governor appointee to the State Advisory Board on juvenile justice and local youth advocate. “This has been an area of need in our county for a long time. We are so excited to see the community coming together and we know there are many others in the community who can help teach this curriculum and also to offer their gifts to facilitate an activity to reinforce the lesson taught that day.”
All 180 Degrees Program facilitators are required to complete 24 hours of training, provided by the national 180 Degrees Program staff. The 180 Degrees Program training will take place daily, Jan. 5 through Jan. 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The training will be held at the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools’ Administration Building located at 2010 N. 59th St., Kansas City, Kan.
“To help our community’s youth to succeed will take our very best effort. Sometimes our efforts in the community can be compartmentalized. Perhaps it’s because we get busy and try and keep up with multiple commitments,” said Phillip Lockman, director of the Department of Community Corrections in the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and KCK. “The vision here is to bring together the key sectors of the community – the schools, government agencies, businesses and faith-based community to come together and help our youth to live to their fullest possible potential.”
For more information or to request an application to serve as a Heartland 180 Degrees program facilitator, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 816-359 – 7363.