Youth Connection Waco is doing its part to invest in the lives of middle school students across Central Texas. When it comes to investing in youth, one of the main ways Youth Connection serves the community is by pouring into the lives of middle school students.
Youth Connection sponsors the “Too Cool for Trouble” program by serving middle school students in educational activities after school hours. The goal of the “Too Cool for Trouble” program is to arm youth with the tools to make positive choices. The hope is that the practice of assessing options and making positive life choices will continue after the students leave the program.
Through group discussions and interactive games, seventh and eighth graders are provided an environment after school that is safe and useful for developing and enhancing personal lifestyle choices.
The program covers various topics such as good character traits and personal wellness. It also teaches skills like goal setting, taking responsibility and leadership.
Brad Jesson is the ACE (After School Centers on Education) Coordinator, or site manager, for one of the local middle schools. His primary duty is to provide activities for students after school and oversees the everyday after school program. Four core components make up his after school program—academic, enrichment, college and career preparation and parent involvement.
Youth Connection’s presence each week helps drive the impact of the program through its service to the students. Youth Connection takes over for Jesson one day per week and he is very grateful for the services of Youth Connection, specifically its “Too Cool for Trouble” program.
“They’ve been very good,” he said. “They are always steady and here on time. They spend time with the kids and the kids can tell they care about them. They put a lot back into them as well. You can always tell a difference in the students when we have somebody outside come in.”
When somebody comes from the program who is a volunteer not associated with the school, the demeanor of the students changes, according to Jesson. He said the students can get used to the same faculty and staff being there, so the presence alone of the Youth Connection volunteers very impactful in itself.
Volunteers value their experiences gained during their services for “Too Cool for Trouble”. For example, one volunteer reported great satisfaction in seeing the students interact with one another as well as employ the tools “Too Cool for Trouble” has given them.
The students in the Waco public schools are being enriched because of the volunteers and the services offered by through Youth Connection’s program. Seventh and eighth grade students are becoming aware of what it looks like to live lives that value morals, integrity and healthy, safe choices that will follow them the rest of their life.