A Community investing in its future…

February 28, 2014

“It’s better to walk alone than with a crowd going the wrong direction.” –  (Diane Grant)

I love that saying by Diane Grant. It is such a strong endorsement about doing what is right, even in the face of unpopularity. For many young people the choice to buck the trend or direction of the crowd that they have been running with feels like walking alone. It’s not, of course, but it is walking without those around you that you may have felt were your friends and whose support you always counted upon. It can seem that to turn away from that crowd is to be alone.

That’s why programs like the Huron Valley Youth Assistance Program are so important. My wife and I attended their annual fund raising event, A Taste of the Valley, Thursday night. Last year it was great to get to talk with some of the counselors and some of the kids who’ve been helped by the program. If there was one consistent theme that I got out of the discussions with the kids that I met, it was that the counselors and mentors and other volunteers in there program were there for them and gave them the strength and encouragement to turn and walk against that crowd that was headed in the wrong direction.

Many kids realize that what they are doing or the direction that they are headed in is wrong;mentoring but they don’t see any way out. It is a frightful and lonely feeling to realize that in order to do what is right, you have to give up those “friends” who have been leading you and encouraging you in the wrong direction. If there is nothing there it grab on to, it feels like a blind leap of faith to go against the grain. The YA Program offers that hand to hold onto through its counseling and mentoring and activities. When it comes down to “who can I turn to?” – the YA program offers an answer.

The event last night was a success with great support by the local restaurants that provided the “Taste of the Valley” and nice prizes to be won in the silent auction. If there was a disappointment to last night it was just that there weren’t enough people there. This is a program that should be better supported by the community because few things are more important that the future of our children. I will certainly try to figure out if there is some way that I can help make it even more successful in years to come.

A day earlier I attended the Community Breakfast at the Carl’s Family YMCA. It was well attended and had a great keynote speaker – Terry Woychowski, Vice President at American Axle – who spoke about “The importance and impact of Community”, especially on our youth.

kid jumping in poolThe Community Breakfast is the kick-off for the Y’s annual fund raising to support its scholarship program. The Y scholarships are provided to allow participation by kids who otherwise couldn’t afford to participate in many of the Y activities, like swimming, soccer, and other team sports programs. Like the YA programs these are intended to give kids healthy alternatives to activities that might be taking them in the wrong direction or t having no activities at all.

The common theme through this week’s youth oriented events is that there is a community support and community programs aimed at providing alternatives to those who choose to turn away from crowds going in the wrong direction. In fact, the message really is that you don’t have to walk alone when you make those choices – the community is behind you and beside you. I hope that you can support both of these worthy efforts. They are aimed at helping and nurturing our most important community assets – our youth. The fact that our community supports both of these effort gives credence to a quote that I’ve used here before –

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Supporting the Huron Valley Youth Assistance Program

February 8, 2013

“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.” (J.K. Rowling) from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. I might add to Rowling’s saying by adding “and wasteful when writes youth off.”

Last ncatch a falling shildight my wife and I went to the annual Taste of the Valley fund raiser for the Huron Valley Youth Assistance Program. We met and had a nice talk with the one youth counselor that the program has left after recent budget cuts. She gave us some good insight into the goals of the program to be a preventative measure to keep kids from going astray. By the time that we read about them in the paper it is often too late to retrieve a young life and set it on the right path.  Getting off on the wrong foot can start with something as simple as skipping school to “hang out” with neighborhood friends.

I certainly don’t intend to discuss what “the right path” is, but I’m pretty sure that it is illuminated by a having a strong sense of right and wrong and a good moral compass. I’m also sure that it does not require drugs or other artificial means to find it. Oakland County has a strong commitment to the youth of the community and sees them rightly as the future for the area. The County supported Youth Assistance program is one of the strongest in the state; yet even it has suffered the ravages of the recent recession with staff and program cut-backs. Fund raisers like the Taste of the Valley help some, but more is needed.

One need is not about money and is something that anyone can help out with. The YA program needs volunteers to be mentors to the youth in the program. Mentors have to be willing and able to spendmentoring time with kids who many times just need someone to talk to or to go to an event with.  Many of the “at risk” kids in the program come from dysfunctional families where finding a responsible adult to talk out a problem might be impossible

The  annual Taste of the Valley fund raiser is used to help fund the YA program within the he Huron Valley School District. The program is currently headquartered on the Apollo Center on N. Milford Rd in Highland. You can contact them at (248) 676-8492 if you’d like to volunteer or just need more information about what they are doing in the Huron Valley School District. If you’d like to read more about becoming a YA mentor or just want more information about the Oakland County YA program click here.