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Community Resource Center Unveils New Programing

As part of the change from a youth shelter to a community resource center, Youth Services of Stephens County will have three new programs to invest in and support children and families in the area. 

Sara Orellana-Paape, Executive Director for Youth Services of Stephens County, said the three programs would begin Sept. 1. Two of the programs will be a partnership endeavor with Duncan Public Schools (DPS) to create needed outreach for students. 

“In this plan, we will be partnering with Duncan Public Schools to work with suspended youth in the 6th through 12th grade to help them continue to maintain their education, their education skills, as well as to provide them with life skills and anger management skills to prevent further suspensions as well as to prevent further office calls,” Orellana-Paape said. “Our main goal is to greatly increase the amount of classroom and instruction time that every student has. In the afternoon, we will be partnering with Gabriel’s House to … extend after-school care by providing an after-school program for 6th through 8th grade.” 

Michele Scott, Director of Special Services for DPS and Youth Services board member, said the partnership was mutually beneficial for both parties.

“As we have talked to community members, as well as trying to bring those stakeholders in, one of the big things is just linking students with additional services and those families that … [which] may be struggling for whatever reason — we want to provide good wrap-around services for all of our students,” Scott said. “ — When we began to talk with Stephens County Youth Services, this was a great way to reach out to a population of individuals and families that needed some additional service that we know Youth Services can provide. We’ll work closely together providing some things, like transportation and computers — so students will be able to stay on track while they are suspended, but at the same time working to gain some new skills so that … doesn’t happen again.”

Scott said many times when a student is suspended, they are home alone or just out and about and hopes the skills learned in this program will be a “tool in their toolbox.”

“Parents will have a choice when we talk about discipline in the school system — parents will be part of the decisions — the programs that the student needs to be in, or is there something different that we need to look at? Parents are actively involved,” Scott said. 

Scott said another great part about the program is that each group there during the day gets a meal.

“That’s a huge need in our community that probably goes underreported,” she said. 

The outreach to the whole family is something both organizations were looking forward being able to have time for. 

“Our goal is to create more of a wrap-around service, whereby talking to the kids, we identify the main problem — maybe mom is underemployed and so we connect mom with resources that help her gain gainful employment,”  Orellana-Paape said. “Maybe brother has dropped out of high school and we connect him with services to get his GED. Our goal is to help everybody in the family — not just the child, because research shows if we can get a stable support system in the home where the child is, that child will excel and their problems will minimize.” 

The shelter is already beginning the physical transformation to host these new programs. 

“We [are] definitely starting small as a community resource center —  The first two [programs] are the suspension prevention programs. The morning is for 6th through 8th grade, the afternoon is for 9th through 12th [grade],” Orellana-Paape said. “In those programs kids will receive a meal, they will receive time and access to do their school work, they will participate in community meetings where we’ll be able to talk about their feelings and their emotions, as well as why they are in the situation that they are in. They’ll also participate in BotVin Life Skills, which is a research-based curriculum that will give them communication skills. It will help them manage their anger, it will help them identify why they’re feeling the way they do.”

Another requirement of being in the suspension prevention program is a joint class with the child and a parent or guardian. 

“Our ‘first offenders’ class, which is another research-based program that has a very high success rate — between 80 and 90 percent,” said Orellana-Paape. “They focus on communication, anger management, ways to parent a teenager, ways to appropriately express emotions. One thing I always say is that at my age of 37, I struggle to identify my emotions. I could — be like ‘I’m upset, I’m upset’ and maybe that is the top-most emotion that I am feeling, but with help and working through it, it can come down to ‘I’m overwhelmed,’ ‘I’m tired.’— So I always stay very keenly aware that if I struggle this much at my age and with the experience that I have — I can only imagine the struggles that kids have.”

The after school program will start late afternoon. 

“In the afternoon, with the help of Gabriel’s House, we are going to create a unique after school program for 6th through 8th grade. — [It] will be more come-and-go because they need more independence and it’s going to be very career-oriented, very positive, we are going to work on driving self-esteem, self-worth,” said Orellana-Paape. “Of course there will be a place for them to work on homework and access things that they need and get help. But in addition we’re talk about what are your career goals, we’re going to bring community members in. … I would love to partner with other industries in the community.” 

For more information or to get involved with Youth Services contact the office at 580-255-8800. 

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