Kalamazoo Youth Development Network

Kalamazoo County is home to over 40,000 school-age youth, approximately 5,500 of whom participate in quality out-of-school time (OST) programming. Research demonstrates that when OST participation is high, there is no gap between the math achievement of low- and higher-income children at grade five. We also know that when OST participation is high, youth are more likely to attend and engage in school and to graduate on time.

The Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (KYD Network), formed in 2000 with the support of the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation (Foundation) and others, serves as the OST intermediary for Kalamazoo County. Our vision is that all youth are college-ready, career-ready, and community-ready by 21. We achieve this vision by ensuring that all Kalamazoo County youth, ages 5 to 21, have access to high-quality, youth-driven OST experiences that are inclusive, culturally relevant, well coordinated and that use resources efficiently to reduce disparities among youth. We work directly with more than 40 youth-serving organizations, many of which are funded by the Foundation.

Over the past four years, through the support of the Foundation, KYD Network has undergone a transformation. Our reach has increased from having seven youth-serving organizations in our “cohort” to more than 40. The tie that binds the cohort is a common focus on quality, because research shows that the higher the quality of the learning environment in OST, the better the outcomes for youth.

In order to better understand how to improve quality of OST programming, KYD Network partners with the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality to implement the Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI) with our 40 cohort members. The YPQI is an evidence-based continuous quality improvement process that requires organizations to use a tool called the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA). This tool has been researched and proven to be a reliable and valid measure of program quality for youth-development organizations. YPQA data are collected three times a year so that organizations can make improvements in their programming. Data from internal and external assessments are compared and each organization has access to a national database so that it can gauge its performance to similar organizations across the country.

Data from the YPQA have shown steady improvements in the quality of learning environments in our cohort (visit our website at www.kydnet.org for details). This is important because, again, we know that the higher the quality of the learning environment, the better the outcomes for youth. KYD Network also focuses on social-emotional learning (SEL) and uses the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) to track improvements in youth who participate in OST programming. Research demonstrates that as youth gain SEL skills — self-management, goal directed behavior, decision making — they do better in school and have more prosocial behavior. We have documented that the longer youth attend our cohort member’s programs, the more they gain these important skills.

A critical element to creating high-quality OST programming is youth voice, providing intentional and authentic opportunities for youth to design, implement, and evaluate OST programming and shape their community. KYD Network facilitates the Kalamazoo County Youth Cabinet (KCYC), a youth council made up of 10 youth from the county who work on issues they have identified as important to them and their community. KCYC is currently partnering with Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes on a photo-voice project to identify food insecurity in their lives and communities. Through workshop creation and facilitation, they are also helping to create learning opportunities for youth and adults to become allies in reducing stigma around mental health, creating a cadre of trained adults who can better support youth. The Foundation supported KYD Network’s partnership with The Neutral Zone, a youth-driven organization in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to provide training and coaching to KCYC during its first year of operation. KCYC has utilized and shared the skills learned from The Neutral Zone with both new members and other Youth Advisory Councils.

Through the support of the Foundation, KYD Network offered two workshops in collaboration with Dr. Robert Root-Bernstein, a MacArthur Fellow, eminent research physiologist, leading authority on the connection between art and science, and co-author of the New York Times best-selling book, Sparks of Genius. These workshops addressed the integration of the arts into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, thereby converting “STEM” to “STEAM.” Dr. Root-Bernstein further guided participants through his 13 thinking tools for creative problem-solving and provided hands-on strategies for helping youth gain the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century.

Over the last four years, KYD Network has been able to create a well-functioning OST system guided by quality standards, common outcomes for youth, core competencies for Youth Development Professionals, a community-wide approach to summer learning, and collaboration among our cohort members. The Foundation continues to play an instrumental role in supporting KYD Network’s growth and impact, helping to ensure that all youth are college-ready, career-ready, and community-ready by 21.

For more information, visit www.kydnet.org.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo

The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo is to enhance the quality of life of young people through education, art, health, and recreation, especially for those who need us most.

Boys and Girls Clubs are open after school to provide educational and recreational programs free of charge to youth in the community. Boys and Girls Clubs is dedicated to ensuring that the youth in Kalamazoo have a safe place to go, and access to quality programs and services that enhance their lives and shape their futures. We offer programming in five core areas:

  • Participating Arts — encourages creativity, focus, the importance of practice, and helps young people see the beauty in the world around them. The program offers youth the opportunity to participate in many art forms including digital, performing, and visual arts.
  • Character & Leadership Development — helps to instill confidence and a sense of self-worth that will remain with youth for years to come.
  • Education & Career Development — provides educational and professional guidance, tutoring, and mentoring, and gives members the tools to become successful adults and the confidence to achieve their scholastic and professional goals.
  • Health & Life Skills — encourages young people to engage in positive behaviors that nurture their own well-being and helps them set personal goals and live successfully as self-sufficient, healthy beings.
  • Sports, Fitness & Recreation — encourages youth to develop an understanding of and passion for fitness, sportsmanship, and teamwork. With different sports leagues and daily gym activities, youth always have an opportunity to be active.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo has three units located in neighborhoods where youth development opportunities are greatly needed — the Lake Street Unit is located in the Edison Neighborhood, the Douglass Unit in the Northside Neighborhood, and the Northeastern Unit in the Eastside Neighborhood. In addition to afterschool programming, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo offers a residential summer camp and programming for youth from each unit during summer break.

Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo helps young people make healthy and productive decisions by providing programs that address the developmental needs of youth, a safe environment in which to learn, supportive adult relationships, and recognition of individual potential.

For more information, visit www.bgckzoo.org.

Douglass Community Association

Douglass Community Association has two youth programs: Douglass Young Men of Promise and Girls Inventing Real Life Solutions. These are both offered after school.

Douglass Young Men of Promise was created after Grad Nation Summit in which young men expressed a desire for a program in which they received mentoring programming that was reflective of who they were and also who they could be. The youth expressed a need for connection with men in the community and an opportunity to connect in ways they had not before. Through this program young men are connected with men in the community who can show them their options for opportunity while also simply showing up to support the youth who are present. The end goal of the program is to assist the young men in obtaining their “promise.”

Girls Inventing Real Life Solutions is designed for girls to have a strong sense of self in a world in which they are bombarded with messages that tell them that will never measure up. This program is about affirmation and connection to the community and one another. The work that is done is both trauma informed and culturally relevant. Girls are connected with women in various careers and provided opportunity to explore what it means to be who they are in a judgment-free environment.

Youth voice is the most important aspect of both of these groups. The young men and the young women both have input into the design and many times the day-to-day of what they will receive from participating. Youth participate in volunteer/community service within the community in which they reside. This creates a sense of responsibility for one’s own environment. We are reaching youth ages 13 – 25. The youth also participate in social-justice learning opportunities. Creating equity in opportunity for those who need it most, that is Douglass Young Men of Promise and Girls Inventing Real Life Solutions.

For more information, visit www.dcakalamazoo.com.

Parks and Recreation Department, City of Kalamazoo

The entire community benefits as a result of recreation programs, special events, and parks as they all help us develop better citizens. How adolescents spend their leisure time undoubtedly impacts their developmental trajectory. As such, a focal point of examination for those in the fields of youth development and delinquency prevention is how adolescents spend their leisure time after school and during the summer months.

Living in a playful city brings the community together with activities that focus on youth and families. The offering of recreation programs that engage youth and families and provide the opportunity for play is one strategy that helps individuals establish a sense of community and belonging. These programs also attract citizens across generations, which is also instrumental in the growth and development of youth.

Youth Development is one of three priorities addressed in the Parks & Recreation Department’s Strategic Plan. We define youth development as: “The intentional efforts of staff, residents, and partnering agencies to provide opportunities for youth to enhance their interests, skills, and abilities into their adulthood.”

Two programs that address the leisure time needs of youth in Kalamazoo are After School Programs and “Super Rec” (supervised playground sites). After School Program sites include the Youth Development Center and Station 5. Both sites are staffed with amazing young people who desire to positively impact youth in our community. Homework is a priority and must be completed prior to any “play” time.

“Super Rec” is offered at four sites in the city (Hispanic American Council, Oakwood Neighborhood Association, New Horizon Village, and at LaCrone Park). Youth attend this free program that is staffed with young adults who coordinate a variety of activities during the day. This program is offered from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and averaged 30 youth per site in 2017.

For more information, visit www.kzooparks.org.

Portage Community Center

Portage Community Center’s Youth Program’s mission is to strengthen the community by developing life skills through social-emotional learning to build a society where all youth thrive. Our programs target underserved youth who have limited access or no access to quality out-of-school time programming.

At PCC our youth programs have always approached our work through lenses of youth voice, social justice, and equity by:

  • Meeting the youth where they are.
  • Embracing and celebrating diversity.
  • Providing strengths-based social-emotional learning to engage youth in the practice of knowing their own emotional lives and building empathy for others.
  • Offering youth-voice opportunities to counter ageism and adultism.

We are active members of the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network and are committed to providing the highest level of youth program quality through evaluation, planning, and the continual professional development of our staff. We utilize evidence-based methods from leading youth development partners, including the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, Devereux Center for Resilient Children, and the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children. Our staff are known statewide and nationally as leaders in youth development, social-emotional learning, and trauma-informed practices — all built on a foundation of collaboration and a deep respect for the youth and families we serve. We believe that all youth need safe and supportive environments where they can learn and have fun while developing skills to make life better for themselves and their community.

We are proud of our youth and of the fact that, when asked about our youth programs, they told us that “Portage Community Center feels like home.”

For more information, visit www.portagecommunitycenter.org.

Prevention Works

Since 1995, Prevention Works has been the community’s foremost nonprofit in prevention and health education services. We serve thousands of local youth and families, many of whom come from marginalized communities, economically challenged backgrounds, and/or are struggling to maintain the unification of their family. To make the greatest impact, Prevention Works uses a multistrategy approach with a mission of giving people tools to make healthy decisions. Prevention Works partners with more than 100 local organizations. Our programs are effective, evidence-based, and demonstrate positive outcomes for our community — in particular, demonstrating long term, positive impact on youth development.

Just one of the many programs that show positive outcomes for youth development is Peer POWER, which was developed with the help of outside evaluators. Peer POWER is an afterschool program geared toward youth ages 9 – 13 and designed to increase the likelihood that youth make healthy, positive decisions and resist peer pressure. There are 12 sessions of learning in two different curriculum topics: Substance Abuse Prevention and Violence Prevention. Peer POWER is based on the Health Belief Model, uses a Peer Education approach to program delivery, and is facilitated by high-school-age Peer Educators. Oversight is provided by one adult Outreach Worker at each session. All staff are highly trained in the program curricula, facilitation skills, professionalism, positive behavioral support, cultural sensitivity, trauma-informed practice, and social-emotional learning and development. The program mutually serves the high-school-age Peer Educators by increasing individual social and emotional development and positively impacting school and work readiness.

Peer Educators and Outreach Workers are recruited from the target population and represent marginalized communities. The youth participants have the opportunity to experience a diverse team of educators who serve as positive role models and mentors. Peer Educators not only deliver accurate educational information, but also work to enhance a sense of community and collaboration within the target neighborhoods and among the participants.

For more information, visit www.prevention-works.org.

Read and Write Kalamazoo

Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) exists to support the growth and learning of youth through the cultivation of reading and writing skills. Founded in 2012, we aim to celebrate and amplify youth voices through a variety of programs: summer writing camps, thematic workshops, secret book club, classroom field trips, in-school programs, as well as partnerships with many youth-serving organizations. At the heart of what we do, you will find the published work of our youth: books, zines, magazines, comics, blog posts, and more. The work we do to provide platforms for youth to experience the joy and creativity of writing is one that empowers youth to use their words and be heard. We believe the success of every student relies on an invested community, so we rely on our growing team of volunteers to provide support at all of our programs and events. Addressing equity and access in our community, RAWK offers all programs at no cost to the youth we serve.

In November of 2017 RAWK relocated into the Vine Neighborhood launching our storefront, The Geological & Musicological Survey Co., which serves as an exciting portal to our writing center and publishing hub. RAWK is committed to deepening youth leadership opportunities for our youth in 2018. Freshly formed, the Youth Advisory Council is setting big goals for the year ahead: developing, writing, and editing a magazine with a theme of social justice, a storefront window installation collaboration with local artists, and creating youth outreach/marketing opportunities for RAWK. This summer, we will grow our Youth Mentor Program that will now consist of a Youth Leadership Camp where we train high school youth to be writing coaches and mentors, and then provide them with stipends to work at our summer camps and our themed drop-in writing mornings. Youth-driven programs ensure RAWK remains an effective organization that speaks to the needs of the youth we serve.

For more information, visit www.readandwritekzoo.org.

STREET Program of Community Healing Center

STREET is an afterschool program for boys ages 10 – 17, which teaches Survival skills, builds relationships based on respect and Trust, provides needed Resources, provides Education and training, and Empowers forward movement, so that They can become productive and positive role models for their peers and the community.

STREET is designed to provide boys with a safe and supportive, home-like environment during critical hours. Program operation hours are from 3:30 – 7:30 pm, transportation is provided, and pick up starts at 2:30 pm. Snacks and a full course dinner are provided Monday through Friday.

The program aims to boost academic achievement and self-esteem, and to build positive relationships within our community. STREET has had a positive impact on the boys enrolled. Through community outreach, other public awareness projects, and activities, STREET has successfully made a positive impact in the lives of over 60 underserved, amazing young men.

“I’m thankful for the STREET Program because it has taught me to deal with issues at home and in school. I used to argue with my mother, talk back to my teachers, and get in trouble at school. The program helps me with my homework and teaches me to make better decisions and improve my behavior. STREET is a great place for me to attend.” — Malik

Program focus includes academic improvement, consistency in program attendance, attending school regularly, leadership qualities, social-emotional growth, life skills development, increase in knowledge, resiliency, and mental health support services. Youth: volunteer at Roof Sit, Tips for Kids, and community cleanup projects; participate in speaking engagements; and were facilitators at Western Michigan University for Community Mental Health’s Wraparound Conference.

For more information, visit www.communityhealingcenter.org

Black Arts and Cultural Center/Face Off Theatre Company

The Black Arts & Cultural Center’s Face Off Theatre Company is dedicated to fostering community, cross-culturally, through theatre. Face Off was founded by African-American alumnae of Western Michigan University in order to fill a void in local theater offerings representative of Kalamazoo’s diverse population. Face Off presents classic and modern pieces that explore issues within the black community. In 2016, Face Off was awarded The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo’s Epic Award for work of high artistic quality that also enhances life in the community. Face Off attracts audience members from different racial, class, and ethnic backgrounds, allowing audiences to connect across various cultural lines. Each performance is followed by a talkback, encouraging the audience to engage with the work, the actors and, most importantly, each other. The company hosts acting and writing workshops for youth and every season includes a youth show. Face Off strives to do work that is authentic and culturally relevant and is always looking for opportunities for the community to grow and learn from one another.

For more information, please visit www.faceofftheatre.com

Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services / Healthy Living Campus

Proper nutrition is essential for a healthy life. Kalamazoo Valley Community College demonstrates a recognition of this connection and a commitment to health through the Bronson Healthy Living Campus and the new Culinary School. This partnership provides educational courses for both healthcare professionals and community members looking to develop their knowledge of nutrition and health.

Understanding that unhealthy eating habits can also lead to symptoms of behavioral health disorders, Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services engages with these partners in a unique and innovative collaboration. Custom curricula address the issues of community health, behavioral health, intellectual and developmental disability, home and community-based supports, chronic disease management, and healthy and sustainable foods. Students learn proper food preparation
and cooking techniques, and that convenience or processed foods are not always the healthiest choices. Students themselves prepare meals and are taught food-based options that enhance health.

To receive this training or read more about the course, go to: www.kazoocmh.org or www.kvcc.edu/trainingschedule.com