What does it take to change a life?
For two youth in our community, all it took was one positive experience at camp.
Drake and Eliza* had experienced pretty rough lives for 5th and 6th graders. Their mother had just passed away after a battle with cancer, and their dad was out of the picture, serving time in jail. They needed something positive in their life so they wouldn’t dwell on being upset and angry at the world.
The pair were given the opportunity to attend I CAN Camp last summer, a program funded by the Columbus Area United Way. During the day camp, they both had positive experiences and “became the all-stars of the week,” said YMCA Executive Director Corey Briggs. “By the end of the camp session, they were always at the front of the group, leading songs, laughing, having the most fun they’ve ever had.”
The siblings continued to go to the Y all summer long--enjoying a safe space to be with their friends and learning to just be kids again.
Impact stories like these are reported regularly at Columbus Area United Way partner agency meetings addressing the topic of “promoting healthy choices.” This forward-way of thinking is being utilized by United Way partners and programs today to combat the many risky behaviors and choices in the world today for teens and young adults.
Besides I CAN Summer Camp, the Y also utilizes funds from United Way to run their NRG Zone after school program, which helps kids be active rather than sitting and playing video games at home or engaging in unsupervised, risky behaviors. Similarly, funds have also been given to support the Columbus After School Program and YFC after-school drop-in programs.
Education is another way the United Way chooses to help teens stay emotionally and physically healthy. Examples of this include programs by Boy and Girl Scouts that teach kids life skills and to advocate for themselves, and YFC’s “W.A.I.T.” program geared toward reducing teen pregnancy.
Another United Way partner agency, The Center for Survivors, takes a creative approach to educating youth in our community through their Revolution student group presentations at area high schools, which combined to reach more than 15,000 individuals last year.
Finally, United Way is helping to provide healthy meal choices for youth through YFC’s “Healthy Hearts & Souls” program where students learn how to prepare meals and exercise. The United Way also promotes the Columbus Public Schools Summer Lunch program and coordinates its volunteers. Last year the summer lunch program provided more than 6800 meals for children ages 1-18 in the community.
By continuing to provide alternatives for negative behaviors, we can help change the trajectory for today’s youth and young adults. But we can’t do it without Y-O-U.
Please consider giving a year-end or monthly gift to the Columbus Area United Way 2018-2019 Annual Campaign to help continue programs like these. To set up your donation, visit ColumbusUnitedWay.com or call the office at 564-5661.
*Note: names have been changed to protect the identities of the subjects of this article.