(L to R) John Killebrew, U-Turn Academy Director and Mendy Stone, Volunteers for Youth Community Liaison.
February 2018: Step into a bygone era, the Roaring Twenties, for an evening of entertainment and a chance to positively impact local youth! Make plans now to attend the annual Chair-ity Auction celebrating the 20th anniversary of Volunteers for Youth (VFY).
The fun-filled evening will feature both a live and silent auction chock-full of amazing items, ranging from home décor to hunting gear; from valuable services to entertainment packages. Individuals and businesses are invited to donate items, goods or services to be auctioned. And, true to the event’s name, plenty of one-of-a-kind furniture pieces will be up for grabs, including the much-anticipated and featured furniture creation refurbished and repurposed by students of one of the VFY’s programs, the U-Turn Academy.
Each year, the students at the U-Turn Academy turn an old, lifeless piece of discarded furniture into something beautiful and memorable. This year’s piece, a Baldwin piano, circa 1935, was donated and is being transformed into a “piano bar” for drink service. It is sure to be a hit with attendees!
‘Grazing Stations’ hosting finger foods and drinks will be included in the price of admission. Guests are invited to dress for the occasion, donning costumes reflecting the Roaring Twenties. There will be a Peoples’ Choice awarded for the best costume. Of course, if a flapper is not your style, come as you are—costumes are not required.
“Volunteers for Youth serves Rogers County youth by beautifully executing seven programs, each stemming from its core mission to mentor today’s youth,” explains Mendy Stone, Community Liaison. The programs include: the aforementioned U-Turn Academy, offering counseling and education for students on long-term suspension from school; BLAST, an after school program for grades 6-8; PAL, a mentoring program, matching public school students with caring adult mentors; and StepUp, a diversion program for juvenile first offenders. VFY also offers prevention programs such as its tribal partnership (Cherokee Nation) to battle prescription drug abuse; a Drug Fee Communities project to educate youth on the dangers of alcohol/tobacco/other drugs; and a Healthy Living Program funded by our state’s tobacco settlement trust.
Through its extensive programming, VFY has served over 5,500 youth. Accordingly, it relies heavily on ongoing corporate sponsorships and private donations to operate. The Chair-ity Auction is one way to get involved and to ensure the work of each of the programs is able to continue. Sponsorship opportunities are available for attendees and are offered, affordably, at the following levels: Platinum Level ($500), Gold Level ($250) and Silver Level ($150).
“Your short-term presence makes for a long-term impact,” explains Stone, so buy your tickets or donate today!
Getting Kids Back on Track
The maxim provides: the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The U-Turn Academy of Volunteers for Youth is changing that when it comes to at-risk adolescents in Rogers County. U-Turn, now in its fifth year, has demonstrated a whopping 81% success rate in assisting at-risk students with a successful transition from a long-term suspension back into their home schools—oftentimes, ahead of schedule.
John Killebrew, U-Turn Academy Project Director states: “Most long-term suspensions are due to students possessing drugs, alcohol or weapons at school. They are at a crossroads. Without intervention it is very likely that the student will not return to school after the suspension, or, if he or she does, he or she will ultimately drop out, having fallen behind academically and unequipped to handle things otherwise.” U-Turn fills these critical gaps.
When a Rogers County school suspends a student age 12-18, the school may refer to U-Turn. U-Turn, then, determines whether the suspended student is a good match for services. Initially, the student and parent must meet with U-Turn to discuss the expectations of the program, as accountability is central to success.
Once enrolled, the student is required to attend U-Turn during the scheduled hours each day to complete the assignments provided by the home school. Continual monitoring and support onsite by a certified instructor and paraprofessional occur, as do weekly communications between U-Turn and the home school, ensuring advancement.
The student also receives counseling by licensed therapists from Grand Lake Mental Health Center during school hours at no cost. Moreover, U-Turn provides wraparound services to the student and family via group and individual counseling throughout enrollment and monthly family nights which include dinner and a motivational guest speaker.
While in attendance, the students participate in an extracurricular project. One such meaningful project is allowing the students to refurbish an old piece of furniture for the annual Volunteers for Youth Chair-ity Auction (this year’s event is on March 3). A battered and scarred piece, restored to a purposeful future is, in many ways, reflective of the lives transformed by the U-Turn program. Former students have even begun to return as adult mentors and volunteers to the program, evidence of the transformation.
As successful as U-Turn has been, however, its future remains unpredictable. With the expiration of the original grant, U-Turn now exists solely on private donations. Therefore, donations are critical from would-be corporate sponsors and individuals, alike. Donate today to change a life!
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