By Max Goodwin
The South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce honored six projects for the 2022 Community Impact Awards last week at its Annual Dinner.
Youth Guidance took home the Big Impact award of the year for its Becoming A Man (BAM) and Working On Womanhood (WOW) programs in the Hickman Mills School District. A small group of full-time counselors provides group counseling and mentoring programs for 210 students dealing with social and emotional challenges or cognitive-behavioral challenges.
“All that wrapped up into a pretty little term is trauma,” said Garrett Webster Sr., Kansas City Executive Director for Youth Guidance.
Webster said trauma can look different for different kids. Kids could be dealing with homelessness, situations at home, bullying, or just being a teenager. Youth Guidance was originally founded in 1924, as the Church Mission of Help, to assist girls in need of shelter, clothing, medical care, and financial help.
The BAM program has been in operation for 21 years now, and the WOW program for 11 years under Youth Guidance. It is a school-based group counseling program for grades 6th through senior in high school.
The Kansas City office opened two years ago working at Ruskin High School and Smith-Hale Middle School.
The idea behind the programs is that kids dealing with trauma often need a caring adult to show them how to cope, help them slow down, and make good decisions. Essentially, they need a mentor. Youth Guidance provides them with those mentors, but more than that, mentors who have expertise in how to handle trauma as licensed social workers.
“What we do is we wrap that mentoring with actual clinical counseling…therapy,” Webster said. “It’s mentoring times ten.”
Most of the caring adults who spend time with the kids on behalf of Youth Guidance have a master’s in social work. They all go through over 300 hours of training. There are four counselors with Youth Guidance in the Hickman Mills School District.
Youth Guidance programs are also operating across the country in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Dallas.
Kansas City has the smallest amount of students involved of any participating city, with just its 210 Hickman Mills students.
A few years ago, Webster began talking with school districts in search of an area in need of what Youth Guidance could provide. Hickman Mills was the best partner.
“It was Hickman Mills that said not only do we need this, we want this,” Webster said. “We want BAM and WOW in our schools.”
According to the annual report from Youth Guidance, 93 percent of students involved in the BAM program nationwide said it helped them make better decisions, and 65 percent saw a decrease in being suspended from school.
Once each week, kids are taken out of class in groups of ten to 15 students. Each counselor has about 55 students to look after. The kids meet in what is called brotherhood and sisterhood groups.
Youth Guidance won the Community Impact award by receiving the most votes in an online poll held by the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
Other winners from the night included Ball’s Price Chopper at Bannister and I-435, St. Joseph Medical Center, Kansas City Early College Academy, and Country Club Bank.