By: Joshua Danker-Dake | Category: Special Interest | Issue: September 2009
Rodney Gray, director of program management for Youth at Heart, says they are always looking for volunteer tutors and coaches.
Growing up in poverty can limit a child’s social opportunities, which play an important role in that child’s development and growth. Youth at Heart, a non-profit United Way agency dedicated to shaping and supporting the youth of Tulsa’s inner city, works to give disadvantaged children those opportunities.
“We strive to empower kids in less fortunate situations, so they can get ahead in life and achieve their dreams,” says Rodney Gray, Youth at Heart’s director of program management. “In our curriculum, we focus on teaching self-discipline, integrity, respect for others, and service to the community.”
The children Youth at Heart serves are from economically disadvantaged families, many of which live in subsidized housing at or below the poverty level. According to Youth at Heart, subsidized housing complexes are often plagued by juvenile delinquency, drug abuse (among adults and children), teen pregnancy, and crime. Youth at Heart helps kids get off and stay off the streets. “We go in and teach them life skills, play games with them, tutor them, and we have volunteers to help them,” says Gray.
Youth at Heart was formed in 2003 when Destination Discovery (which had served Tulsa since 1976) merged with Helping Hands of Tulsa (founded in 1984), both of which offered similar services. Now, with all its programs, Youth at Heart reaches over 3,000 area kids, ages 6 through 18, each year. Youth at Heart communities include Apache Manor, Parkview Terrace, Comanche Park, Riverview, East Central Village, Sandy Park, Mohawk Manor, Seminole Hills, Edenwood, South Haven Manor, Normandy Apartments, Parkview Terrace, Riverview, Sandy Park, Seminole Hills, and South Haven Manor.
“We manage nine recreation centers in the Tulsa area, all of which are at low-income apartment complexes,” says Gray. At these recreation centers, Youth at Heart provides tutoring, life enrichment activities, games, youth groups, and other activities such as 4-H, scouting, and family and children’s services. Youth at Heart also offers organized sports programs including baseball, basketball, and tennis.
“We partner with a number of organizations, including area churches and Tulsa Community College,” says Gray. “This summer, we’ve teamed up with Junior Achievement. They really have a great curriculum – kids are learning about what makes up their communities, how areas can be revitalized, zoning, jobs in the community, and their role in the community. They’re also learning the importance of money management. And they get to do it at an outdoor camp in a fun, friendly environment that includes swimming and sports. We’ve been able to do this for about 200 kids ages 6 through 11.” Youth at Heart also partners with Tulsa Public Schools each summer to provide lunches to their clients through the TPS Summer Feeding program.
If you’re interested in making a positive impact in your community, Youth at Heart has a number of volunteer opportunities available. “We’re always looking for volunteers,” says Gray. “We want tutors – we do tutoring in five locations, and we can always use extra hands. We also need coaches for our sports programs. Right now, we’re gearing up for our fall program, and we need chaperones for our weekend field trips as well as volunteers to help out at our recreation centers.”
For more information on Youth at Heart’s facilities and programs, or to find out how you can get involved, give them a call or visit them on the web at www.youthatheart.org.