What We Are
We are a grassroots comprehensive, positive youth development and advocacy organization with a social enterprise, apprenticeship program and subsidized housing adjunct for our youth employees.
Who we serve
We serve homeless and at-risk youth residing in western North Carolina, primarily Henderson, Buncombe and Transylvania counties in the spirit of collaboration and partnership as a state demonstration model.
Ages We Serve
We serve ages 18-21 (will consider 17 year olds with referral and parental authorization)
What We Offer
- Increased avenues for development of self-responsibility
- Apprenticeships and employment
- Accredited alternative school (grades 11, 12 or GED; college or vocational track available)
- Out-of-school suspension program
- Positive self-expression and esteem-building
- Experiential art, drama, media and cultural workshops and events
- Referral for crisis intervention
- Interim/transitional housing as available
Youth in this age group are basically invisible. There are no welfare services available to them because they fall through the cracks of legislation designed to assist youth only up to age 18. With no skills, long term family rejection, teen pregnancy, bullying, incest, drug use, substandard academics, generational abuse cycles, sexual, racial and religious intolerance, boredom, and cultural deprivation, they are not equipped to live independently. We help them bridge the gap to adulthood, yet provide not only emotional support, but help them recover missed childhood experiences and expression so they can move forward, whole.
For the past 2 years, youth homelessness (including runaways and throwaways) has exceeded 700 per year in Henderson and Buncombe counties (school count). This does not take into account drop-outs, youth who have graduated and are homeless, or youth aging out of foster care without an adult advocate. No one is even counting them! In one year, 567 unmarried young women in Henderson County between the ages of 18 and 24 gave birth. In 2008, 168 girls in school got pregnant – and 7 out of 10 who got pregnant dropped out.
More than 25% of youth in WNC are not completing high school. This means of 40,000 kids currently in the two county systems, over 10,000 of them will not graduate without successful intervention. 1/3 of all youth leaving foster care drop out of school and more than 25% are incarcerated within the first 18 months of independence.
Suicide and attempted suicide is epidemic. In Henderson County alone, 9 youth committed suicide last school year, 6 in one high school. Several more died of drug or alcohol related use. This is known as “numbing down.” Many of these kids had suffered long term neglect and been unprotected for years after reporting family abuses or were victims of gender intolerance and bullying.
We expect to assist 25 homeless youth and those at-risk of being homeless in locating interim housing in 2012, engage 200 youth directly (at the Gen Y youth center) during the school year and summer; and reach 5,000 youth at area schools, centers and via internet sharing, our drama productions/focus groups, web TV show discussing teen issues, and enrichment activities.
How our approach is different
Most programs for older teens confine their service to adult life readiness. We know that our youth also need to achieve some successes and rights of passage that usually occur during adolescence to become confident, socially adjusted young adults able to tackle higher education, career training, independent living and civic duty. This requires deeply committed mentors who can both connect with young people and recognize the gaps in their development. We do this through creative and entrepreneural programs.
It is our goal to provide 80% of our funding needs through social enterprise. In this way, not only are we able to offer innovative programs for the youth without fear of funding cuts, but the youth themselves learn to become responsible employees or entrepreneurs and help sustain the programs that assist them.