Mayor announces new program for students impacted by violence
By John Sharp
KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas has announced that new guidance and mentoring programs for students in grades 7-12 whose lives may have been impacted by violence or other traumatic events will begin in January in the Hickman Mills School District and later be expanded to other school districts in the metropolitan area.
Speaking at a press conference September 14 at Ruskin High School, Lucas said a $1.7 million commitment from the GreenLight Fund, a nonprofit grantmaker, will provide financial support to start the programs at the high school and at Smith-Hale Middle School and to expand them to other schools in the metropolitan area in future years.
“This is a long-term investment in our youth,” Lucas said.
Sarah Haberberger, executive director of GreenLight Fund Kansas City, said the organization plans to expand the programs to at least eight additional schools in the metropolitan area by 2025. The expansion is being aided by a $500,000 grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation.
The programs – Becoming A Man (BAM) and Working on Womanhood (WOW) were developed and will be operated by Youth Guidance, a Chicago-based provider of programs designed to help youth overcome obstacles and succeed in school and life.
“BAM and WOW are proven, evidence-based models that provide youth safe spaces to share their challenges, find mentorships and access support,” Lucas said, “and I am glad to help launch these programs in our Hickman Mills School District.”
Haberberger said interviews are about to be conducted for an executive director for the programs in Hickman Mills who will oversee a program supervisor and two BAM and two WOW counselors who will be expected to serve over 100 students in the spring semester.
Students in the program will participate in weekly group sessions and individual counseling sessions.
Both Hickman Mills School Board President Cecil Wattree and Superintendent Yaw Obeng thanked GreenLight for selecting their school district to be the first to participate in the programs.
“This will absolutely make a difference in our schools and in our community,” Wattree said.
Obeng noted, “Through this partnership our students will have access to an added layer of support with thoroughly trained and highly skilled counselors to help with social, emotional and mental health needs.”
Haberberger explained the Hickman Mills School District was selected as the first area district to participate in the programs because of its commitment to equity and how enthusiastic and supportive the district’s leadership was about the programs.
She said focusing on programs to help youth overcome the effects of violence and other traumatic events was selected as a focus area based on the recommendation of an inclusive Selection Advisory Council of local leaders from throughout the metropolitan area put together by GreenLight after it expanded its operations to the Kansas City area in 2019.
GreenLight also heard from area youth who said they were looking for safe spaces to share their feelings, know they are not alone, heal from trauma, find hope and feel empowered, Haberberger said.
She said each year GreenLight will lead a community-driven process to bring another proven program to the Kansas City metropolitan area to address other gaps in services for area families facing barriers to economic stability and growth.