Summer programs available for 2,000 youths

Summer programs available for 2,000 youths

May 18th, 2013 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

James Talley, left, bombards On Point facilitator Ed Hines, right, with paper balls representing distractions and dangers that school children face on a daily basis.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

TO GET INVOLVED

Parents interested in their children participating in summer activities with the agencies should call Front Porch Alliance at 423-756-8545.

As Pink's pop song "Perfect" played, pastors and leaders from several local organizations watched a video of a school-age girl get so distraught at not being accepted that she attempted to take her own life.

"Pretty pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel like you're less than, less than perfect."

The group also saw how the girl changed her thinking and rescued herself from despair.

"No doubt, we know kids like this," said Lesley Scearce, CEO of OnPoint, a Chattanooga-based youth development organization. "We all have painful stories, but we've got to shift our focus to see the strengths."

Scearce spoke to more than two dozen summer program providers that the nonprofit Front Porch Alliance called together. The alliance is a group that connects stakeholders for the revitalization of inner-city neighborhoods.

They plan to reach about 2,000 youths from first grade to high school. Some youngsters will get jobs or stipends, but Front Porch says its main mission is to give youths values and support that will enable them to have successful lives.

It is assembling a list of summer providers attending the training and the programs they offer.

Some programs began this month.

The group met earlier this week at the Brainerd Baptist Church to learn the importance of 40 developmental assets that help children become successful adults.

Those assets include family support, a caring neighborhood, caring school climate, safety, positive peer influence and a sense of purpose.

Then the group saw how having the values worked when OnPoint facilitator Ed Hines stood in the center of the room and played the part of a seventh-grader.

People on one side of the room balled up bright orange sheets of paper representing "assaults" and flung them at him. The assaults represented having no leadership, a deteriorating community, drugs and gangs.

"All of these assaults end in death," said Mary Raush, OnPoint's director of community partnership. "Death of dreams. Death of expectations."

Then Raush told the "assets" to step in place.

People carrying bright green paper representing positive peer pressure, adult mentors, sense of purpose and commitment to school surrounded Hines and prevented him from being hit.

"I felt more protected," said Hines. "Like people cared about my future and I could become a better young man."

The video that the group watched is a fictional story, but for some youths, it's a reality.

According to a Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network report, titled Status of Suicide in Tennessee 2013, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 19 in the state. In any given year more teenagers and young adults die by suicide than from cancer and heart disease combined, according to the report. There were 32 deaths among people aged 10 to 19 in 2011.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.