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SCV Youth Project offers help

Youth: Nonprofit offers help and a safe place to go for teens in trouble

Posted: November 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Members of the SCV Youth Project board gather for a group photo to promote the SCV Youth Project Sweet Charity Cake Auction, the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser.

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Divorce. Drug abuse. Bullying. Suicide.

Today’s teens have a lot on their minds, yet don’t always have a safe place to express their concerns.

SCV Youth Project, a nonprofit devoted to providing a safe, nurturing environment where teens and families are strengthened, empowered and equipped with the tools they need to live successful and fulfilling lives, can often be the frontline for teens who are struggling to find their voice.

This is done through outreach programs such as weekly support groups throughout the William S. Hart School District’s junior high and high schools.

“I love group. It’s one of the only things I look forward to every week. I love everyone and everything we talk about,” said one 16-year old female student in a recent confidential survey.

Another 15-year old female student said, “I like group a lot. It shows that there are a lot of people that deal with similar things and how they deal with them using coping methods.”

Such feedback is rewarding to SCV Youth Project executive director Kim Goldman.

“There’s been a great need over the last few years, especially, with an increase in depression due to the economy that has created changes in the family home,” she said. “Mom and dad may be unemployed or out of the home working more than one job. Substance abuse and violence tends to increase due to stress and loss of income. The collateral damage is often the kids.”

Suffering internally doesn’t always show on the surface, said Goldman.

“When we first came on, the stereotype was the kid wearing the hoodie by the portables, but we see kids from all walks of life and different socio-economic backgrounds. We’re trying to break the perception of the kids we see, because it doesn’t look the same on every kid,” she said. “Some kids can’t prioritize time; some want to commit suicide. It runs the gamut.”

The SCV Youth Project’s Teen 411 awareness campaign generally aligns with national awareness campaigns, such as September’s Suicide Prevention Month.

“We bring awareness to campuses, set up a booth at lunch time and provide a questionnaire for kids to participate. They enter into a raffle and can learn more about the Youth Project, drug abuse or depression,” Goldman said. “Each campus has its own restrictions, so we alter the message slightly to accommodate that.”

Through a partnership with participating McDonald’s, SCV Youth Project hands out Fry Cards to students that contain local and national crisis hotlines (for AIDS, rape and suicide) on one side and a free coupon for fries on the other (which must be accompanied by a student ID).

Lunchtime Madness, set on campus lunchrooms, allows kids that are having difficulty acclimating to their new environment a safe place to go.

“There’s social-skill building and games,” Goldman said.

Often, what SCV Youth Project does best, is provide a sympathetic ear.

“We don’t tell kids what to do, we nudge them in the right direction, empower them to make their own good choices. Part of that is being a good listener,” Goldman said.

That approach resonated with one 16-year-old female student who said that through SCV Youth Project she “learned how to talk to my mom and that I should just keep trying, even if she isn’t trying to have a connection with me.”

SCV Youth Project President Gregg Goodman, a father of two daughters, became involved with the organization a decade ago after noticing some changes in their behavior as teens.

“They struggled and had lots of issues they needed help with. We’ve all been through problems in our lives, one way or another, some worse than others,” Goodman said. “It’s gratifying to help out the kids. They’re our future.”

With budget cutbacks at the Hart District in the last few years, SCV Youth Project has had some struggles of their own.

Relying on grants and private donations, as well as funds raised through annual events such as a poker tournament and the Sweet Charity Cake Auction, has been particularly challenging in a recession.

“It’s really tight. Even though you don’t think your kid is in need of our services, there might be a good friend or classmate who does,” Goldman said. “We live out in the SCV because we take good care of each other. If our services go away, it increases the risks for the kids.”

Goodman concurred.

“There are problems out here, people have emotional issues, family issues and definitely drug issues,” he said. “How about those kids who don’t want to go to their parents? They can come to us and we can guide them, but we need support from the community.”

For more information on the SCV Youth Project, visit www.helpnothassle.org or call (661) 257-YOUTH (9688).

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