NYN broadens scope to help youth and teens thrive
Posted on 04/23/2019
The network is building bridges with other community services.The Northville Youth Assistance program has developed a new strategy and rebranding that changes the focus from helping teens who get in trouble to a more comprehensive, holistic model designed for youth from early elementary through 12th grade. The goal is to empower youth through healthy lifestyle programs and serve as a bridge to services provided by other agencies and businesses.

Now in its 30th year, the organization’s new vision is “a community where all Northville youth are supported and encouraged to develop resiliency and a positive sense of self.”

With the rebranding comes a new name: the Northville Youth Network (NYN). The organization serves both the City and Township of Northville, and is funded by taxes in the city and a millage in the township. They also receive funding from Wayne County for Youth Assistance.

Northville Youth Network Director Amy Prevo facilitated the transition by working with a commission of appointed officials and residents from both the City and Township, and a representative from the Northville Board of Education. They are Marilyn Price, Chuck Murdock, Michele Fecht and Suzanne Lynn. The commission assessed the needs of youth and their families, reviewed best practices and trends, and reworked the program to meet today’s challenges.

A new 5-year plan focuses on seven areas of support:

• Education and Awareness
• Mentoring
• Leadership Development
• School Connection and Transition program
• Youth Assistance Program
• Referral services
• Casework services

Education and Awareness will guide youth in life skills, such as decision-making; goal-setting; recognizing abuse in relationships; and learning how to eat nutritiously and exercise regularly.

The change in direction refocuses the program’s counseling aspect. Previously, NYA contracted with social workers to work with students for up to six weeks with periodic follow-up. However, many of the youth need longer term counseling. Now, a part-time social worker, Kerri Ann Sondreal, serves as a case manager. Youth have an initial assessment done at the center, then are referred to a counselor or other support services. The new approach will allow more youth to enter the program.

“We found that we couldn’t provide the depth of service that was needed with the resources at hand,” said Prevo. “We will assess the needs of kids here at the Community Center (where the program is based) but make referrals to counselors, support groups, and other service providers in the community.”

The core services remaining include the mentor program; diversion program; Peer-2-Peer sessions at Meads Mill; and the summer CAMP program at Hillside and Meads Mills for 5th grade students heading into 6th grade at Northville Public Schools.

The mentor program trains adults in ways to assist teens and even younger kids who are experiencing turbulence in their lives due to school issues, family problems, medical conditions, low self-esteem and other reasons. The diversion program is designed to keep first-time offenders from being repeat offenders. Many of these programs have been part of the organization since its inception.

With limited resources, the organization is relying more on volunteers to spearhead workshops and presentations while drawing on community resources, such as local health systems, to provide extended services.

“One aspect of education awareness involves the ability to identify areas of difficulty that youth are facing, such as anxiety, depression, mental and emotional health issues, and substance abuse, and then apply the right preventative approach. “We want to offer our educational series to teachers, counselors, kids and parents,” said Prevo.

“Northville is a very high-performing community and there’s a lot of pressure to be the best and excel,” she added. “Some kids find it overwhelming, especially in high school but even in middle school. While it’s important to do well in school and excel in certain areas, it shouldn’t take a toll on a child’s mental health or their ability to get enough sleep and eat healthy meals,” she said.

Growing problems include vaping – inhaling flavored juice that may contain cannabis, nicotine and other addictive substances. “It’s easy to get and easy to conceal. Kids are doing it in class,” Prevo said.

“We are working on a new component of leadership development – asking middle-school and high school kids to tell us what they want and need and how best to reach them,” she noted.

NYN also wants to do more with recognition events to fill the gap between honors based on grades and athletics. They want to publicly acknowledge students who are giving back to the community or those who have overcome an obstacle in their life, changing their trajectory from going down a dangerous path to choosing a better way.

With the new 5-year plan, NYN will branch out and strengthen its ties to the community by expanding on the following:
• Strategic and robust partnerships
• Integrity and responsible stewardship
• Actionable strategies based on sound theories and concepts.

“We will provide wrap-around services, and touch different areas of need,” Prevo noted.

The organization replaced their former logo of an adult holding a child’s hand with a new colorful logo that shows the nurturing hand and curved arm of an adult partially encircling (and supporting) a diverse group of children. It illustrates the power of the child/teen as well.

“You’ve got to let kids know they have the power to take ownership. Otherwise, they let things happen to them,” Prevo said.

She applauds the ongoing, positive work that the Northville City and Township Police departments do with the Northville School District. She notes that the District is doing a better job of providing social and emotional health support to students, in part because the need is vast and students need to be able to focus on school work rather than their personal or family issues in the classroom.

Northville Youth Network is hosting an open house at the Community Center on May 8, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Guests – adults and youth – can meet the staff, tour the offices, explore the services and find out how to get involved as a volunteer or mentor. Light refreshments will be served at this free event, open to the public.