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Youth Villages volunteer and advocate Daphne Large inducted into Memphis Society of Entrepreneurs

April 11, 2014

Large_Daphne_webDaphne Large, CEO of Data Facts and longtime volunteer and community advocate of Youth Villages’ programs, has been selected as one of the 2014 inductees into the Memphis Society of Entrepreneurs. Large supports Youth Villages by sponsoring the annual Memphis foster care Holiday Heroes party. She often helps kids in residential treatment celebrate holidays by baking cupcakes for the kids, hosting Easter egg hunts and leading the kids in pumpkin decorating at Halloween. She also sponsors a co-creation workshop, helping girls at the Girls Center for Intensive Residential Treatment create art murals. Large founded Data Facts in 1989, which currently employees 56 full-time staff members at its Cordova, Tenn., headquarters and serves customers in 35 states. Large also encourages Data Facts employees to support Youth Villages as well.

Read about Large’s accomplishments in the Commercial Appeal (subscription required).

Zach gets encouragement, support from TL Program

March 24, 2014
Zach, right, and TL Specialist Jennifer Dyer

Zach, right, and TL Specialist Jennifer Dyer

Zach agreed to wear long pants if the temperature dropped below freezing – until then, he was going to wear shorts.

And as the temperature outside hovered just above the freezing mark, Zach, in cargo shorts, shared what the transitional living program has meant to him.

“I couldn’t have done it on my own,” he said.

Zach’s a sophomore at Tennessee Tech and plans to teach English at a high school in his hometown. Now 18, Zach entered state custody at 11 years old when his father surrendered his rights. He wouldn’t describe his younger self as stubborn or defiant, but did conclude he had a way of doing things and wasn’t open to being told how. He was shuffled through numerous foster homes before he found stability. In many ways, it was Zach who changed.

“I matured a lot during that time,” Zach said. “I realized I needed to stop burning bridges.”

About a year ago, he entered Youth Villages’ transitional living program. Jennifer Dyer is his specialist.

They’ve worked together to help Zach with money management, housing, insurance and also time management.

Zach has an academic scholarship with requirements he must continue to meet. Jennifer has also helped Zach maintain relationships, specifically with his former foster family.

“He’s still close with that family,” Jennifer said. “But Zach needed encouragement to maintain that relationship and keep up with them.”

And encouragement and support are Jennifer’s primary role with Zach. Transitional living partners youth ages 17-22 with specialists who support the youth in finding safe housing, achieving stable employment, continuing education or job training, reuniting with birth families if possible, and building healthy adult support systems.

“Zach does things on his own,” Jennifer said. “But he asks for advice and help. He worked through some issues with trust and is now involved at school and makes friends easily.”

In fact, Zach learned quite a bit about forgiveness and friendship.

He sat face-to-face with his father after not seeing him for six years, and keeps up with his biological family as much as he can. He’s a generally happy person and is quick to smile. And that’s an asset moving forward.

“Jennifer has helped me quite a bit,” Zach said. “She keeps me on track.”

Mentors celebrated at appreciation dinner

March 19, 2014

Youth Villages’ Chris Crye Mentoring Program recently held an appreciation dinner to honor Memphis-area mentors for devoting their time and serving as positive role models to the kids Youth Villages serves.

Mentors enjoyed a Cajun and Creole buffet provided by Owen Brennan’s. The mentoring department presented each mentor with a certificate and gave away Youth Villages items as door prizes. Guests heard from a current mentor and mentee, who shared how their mentoring experience has been a rewarding experience for both of them.

The mentoring department also welcomed Elliot Perry, former University of Memphis and Memphis Grizzlies basketball player, as the guest speaker on behalf of the Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation, a partner of the Youth Villages Chris Crye Mentoring Program. Perry shared his own experience of having a childhood mentor who positively influenced him and helped him become successful.

All guests had a great time sharing their mentoring experiences with each other. The dinner was generously sponsored by Concero Resources.

Ladainian decides on a new future

March 14, 2014
Ladainian with Youth Villages MYPAC Coordinator Brian Townsend

Ladainian with Youth Villages MYPAC Coordinator Brian Townsend

Ladainian was already labeled as the child who couldn’t be helped.

The stigma followed him to school.

Difficult. Physically aggressive. Auditory and visual hallucinations. Fights all the time at home and at school.

“I did get into a lot of fights,” Ladainian said. “But the last two years I’ve worked on how to not get into fights.”

His labels weren’t necessarily unwarranted, but they went further. People weren’t giving him a chance. His parents felt as if no one understood. His medication was constantly changed. He was picked on at school. Although very bright, Ladainian was suspended or written up often at school, and was put into a special class for safety reasons. His family began working with Youth Villages through Mississippi Youth Programs Around the Clock.

“I think he decided he was tired of getting into trouble,” said Brian Townsend, Youth Villages MYPAC coordinator. “But there was a lot that changed all at the same time that helped him as well.”

Brian and a previous Youth Villages coordinator showed Ladainian different ways to cope with frustrating or difficult situations. Brian worked with the family and the school and discussed triggers that caused Ladainian’s behavior issues, explained what Ladainian had learned and how to best handle those situations. Brian showed the family ways to spend more time with Ladainian so he didn’t feel left out among his seven siblings. He began to go fishing and spend time together with his parents.

“I think Ladainian finally realized he had some people on his side and had some support,” Brian said. “Then he saw the rewards of making good decisions.”

Ladainian went out for the city football team. He ran for class vice president at his school.

“I lost by one vote,” Ladainian said. “Next year, I’m going to run for president.”

Now 12 years old, Ladainian’s true personality is showing — his wit, his charm, his energy and the countless other things that make you smile when you speak to him or see him. He’s back in regular school and doing well. When faced with a difficult situation, he walks away. He’s become closer to his siblings and his parents. Most importantly, he’s back to being a regular kid again.

“Brian believed in Ladainian and showed us ways to help him,” said Ladainian’s mom. “We also found out we had to do some work as well. It’s so much better now than what it was.”

A giant heart for everyone to see

March 13, 2014

Chad

From time to time, people come along who defy convention.

Chad is one of those.

Physically imposing at more than 6 feet 5 inches, he’s more aptly described with such words as gentle, soft-spoken and thoughtful.
But growing up, his size and his history followed him from state placement to state placement. Many times, he was handled more roughly or severely because of his size.

Chad was very young when he suffered a family tragedy and was taken from his home. He then went through myriad foster homes and state facilities before landing in a good foster home in the Portland area. He spent a year there and at 17, he left foster care to participate in Youth Villages Oregon’s Mosaic program.

Now 23, Chad will soon move to a new town to reunite with his older brother and be close to another adult who supports him.

“The Mosaic program was very important for me,” Chad said. “It helped me learn and grow.”

And that’s not all. Chad had basic insecurities and behavior issues because of his traumatic past. On top of that, he was obstinate, and didn’t like being told what to do. When he entered Mosaic, he learned basic life skills, how to be more self-sufficient and how to make good choices on his own. Program Manager Rachel Johnson supported Chad during his five years in the program.

“Trust was the big issue during his first year,” Rachel said. “He had some rough moments, but he saw we were a support for him and not there to dictate what he did.”

And that’s the big difference between state services for children and adults, Rachel said. As a child, your path is highly monitored and accounted for.

“In the adult system, if you don’t want to engage in treatment, you don’t have to,” Rachel said. “As an adult, you have to make the appointments and then get to the appointments. If you’ve never done that before, it can be a struggle the first few times.”

“I went from having no control over what I did to being given the reins to my everyday life,” Chad said. “At first it kind of threw me for a loop.”

Chad looked for a job. He managed a budget and bought food for himself, preparing his own meals and washing his clothes. Chad found work as a prep cook and also as a peer support operator. He made mistakes, but Mosaic staff were there for support.

“It has been rough at times,” Chad said. “But when challenging situations arise, I reflect on what I learned at Mosaic and it helps.”

For many, the Mosaic program offers them an opportunity to interact in the adult world outside of the clinical or system setting.

“They have to decide what their goals are,” Rachel said. “Our big focus is getting to know the youth and build trust. Once they decide what their goals are, we offer support to help them achieve their goals.”

Chad wants to work for himself. He enjoys fishing, and said he’d like to tie his own fly-fishing flies. But he saved his highest praise for the Mosaic program and staff.

“If I hadn’t gone there, I would probably be in some state facility unaware and unable to take care of myself,” Chad said. “It’s easy, but you have to work at it. You have to take advantage of the program and get the most out of it.”

Former foster youth sing with Patti LaBelle at White House ‘Women of Soul’ workshop

March 7, 2014

(Starting second from left) Youth Villages transitional living program participants Bianca Christian, Mariah Hunt and Fred Burns look on during the March 7 workshop with First Lady Michelle Obama and entertainers Patti LaBelle, Melissa Etheridge and Janelle Monáe at the White House.

Twenty participants in the Youth Villages transitional living program for former foster children joined more than 120 middle school, high school and college-level students from across the country for a “History of Women in Soul Music” educational program and concert at the White House March 7.

First Lady Michelle Obama hosted “I’m Every Woman: The History of Women in Soul,” a student workshop in the State Dining Room. The educational event was in conjunction with the PBS music special “Women of Soul: In Performance in the White House,” produced by The GRAMMY Museum. It included a history of the origins of soul music by Grammy Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli. He was joined by special music guests Patti LaBelle, Melissa Etheridge and Janelle Monáe, who also appeared in the concert later that evening. During the workshop, these artists shared their experiences and answered students’ questions.

At the end of a question-and-answer session with the performers, the students shared their own musical talents with an impromptu sing-a-long of Arthur Conley’s classic hit, “Do You Like Good Music?” The singers included Youth Villages’ transitional living participants Melissa Howard, Darrah Hall and Sherika Wilkes. Watch the entire program below (to see the sing-a-long, skip ahead to the 58:24 mark of the video).

Learn more about the transitional living program and the challenges young adults face after aging out of foster care at lostat18.org.

“Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House” will be broadcast Monday, April 7 at 9 p.m. (EDT) on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings).


The Commercial Appeal: Memphis students sing at White House (subscribers only).




Youth Villages transitional living participants at White House for ‘Women of Soul’ event

March 6, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 6, 2014) – Thirteen participants in the Youth Villages transitional living program for former foster children are joining more than 120 middle school, high school and college-level students from across the country for a “History of Women in Soul Music” educational program and concert at the White House today.

First Lady Michelle Obama is hosting “I’m Every Woman: The History of Women in Soul,” a student workshop in the State Dining Room. The educational event is in conjunction with the PBS music special “Women of Soul: In Performance in the White House,” produced by The GRAMMY Museum. It will include a history of the origins of soul music by Grammy Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli. He’ll be joined by special music guests Patti LaBelle, Melissa Etheridge and Janelle Monáe, who will also appear in the concert later that evening. During the workshop, these artists will share their experiences and answer student questions. The White House “I’m Every Woman: The History of Women in Soul” workshop will be streamed live at 11 a.m. (EST) Thursday: http://www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Youth Villages participants include:

  • Fred Burns, Jackson, Miss., Jackson State University
  • Bianca Christian, Memphis, Tenn., University of Memphis
  • Darrah Hall, Memphis, Tenn., University of Memphis
  • Angelica Harris, Clarksville, Tenn., Austin Peay University
  • Melissa Howard, Memphis, Tenn., University of Memphis
  • Mariah Hunt, Greensboro, N.C., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • Mia King, Knoxville, Tenn., University of Tennessee
  • Jessica Lands, Raleigh, N.C., Strayer University
  • Tyler McNew, Cookeville, Tenn., Tennessee Technological University
  • Mary Moore, Hernando, Miss., Penn Foster College
  • Michelle Morgan, Memphis, Tenn., University of Memphis
  • Keyona Reynolds, Greensboro, N.C., University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Jennifer Rhodes, Murfreesboro, Tenn., Middle Tennessee State University
  • Brandy Ross, Carrollton, Ga., University of West Georgia
  • Brandon Rutledge, Jackson, Tenn., Union University
  • Stephen Savino, Thompson’s Station, Tenn., Middle Tennessee State University
  • Laura Thomas, Chattanooga, Tenn., Tennessee Technological University
  • Sherika Wilkes, Murfreesboro, Tenn., Middle Tennessee State University
  • Kristie Wimbush, Henderson, N.C., North Carolina Central University
  • Avery Wolverton, Beverly, Mass., American Red Cross Certified Nurse Assistant Program

As part of their “In Performance at the White House” series, the President and First Lady will welcome music legends and contemporary major female artists to the White House for a celebration of the great “foremothers” of American music, with songs expressing the struggles and achievements of women. The program Thursday evening will include performances by Tessanne Chin, Etheridge, Aretha Franklin, Ariana Grande, LaBelle, Monáe and Jill Scott, with Greg Phillinganes as music director. The President’s remarks and the entire event will be streamed live at WhiteHouse.gov/live at 7:30 p.m. (EST)

The Youth Villages participants will conclude their time in Washington, D.C. with a reception on Capitol Hill sponsored by Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi. They will thank guests for their interest in and advocacy for foster children and their issues, as well as sharing their ideas for policy changes that can help foster youth and young people aging out of foster care.

The Youth Villages young people will conclude their visits to Washington D.C. with stops at their home state congressional offices. They’ll be talking to representatives and their aides about the Youth Villages’ transitional living program and the needs of young people who age out of foster care without family support.

The program, pioneered in Tennessee and now serving youth in five other states, was recognized because of its commitment to building qualities that help young people – particularly those in the child welfare system – mitigate or eliminate risk and promote healthy development and well-being. Since 1999, it has helped more than 6,000 former foster children make a successful transition to adulthood.

Approximately 26,000 young adults age out of foster care every year in the United States. National studies have found that, with limited resources and supports, these young people are more likely than their peers to end up homeless or incarcerated and less likely to have a job or go to college. In contrast, even two years after completing Youth Villages’ transitional living program, about 80 percent of participants are living independently or with family; are in school, graduated or employed; and are crime-free.

In October, Tennessee became the first state in the country to offer comprehensive services to help all foster children who age out of state custody. Through a partnership with Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services, Youth Villages’ transitional living program is in the fourth year of a rigorous randomized evaluation designed to test the program’s outcomes as compared to traditional services available in the community. The study, coordinated by MDRC, a nonprofit education and social policy research organization, and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, has followed more than 1,300 Tennessee young people and should yield preliminary results next year.

Just last month, the Youth Villages transitional living program was named one of 15 local, state and national youth- and family-serving initiatives making a critical difference in the lives of youth in foster care by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, a national organization based in Washington, D.C.

“Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House” will be broadcast Monday, April 7 at 9 p.m. (EDT) on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings). The program will also be broadcast at a later date via the American Forces Network to American service men and women and civilians at U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.

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