Youth Network enriches area children

By Chelsie Gastright, Organizations Editor

February 20, 2013

Youth NetworkCommunity service is deeply embedded into High Point University’s foundation. Students contribute 30,000 hours annually to the surrounding communities and through other service projects with on-campus organizations.

In fall of 2012, a new non-profit organization opened its doors just across the street from HPU. Partnered with Christ United Methodist Church, HPU and the Guilford County Resource and Referral Center, Youth Network has taken the hearts of both Guilford County and the HPU community.

“Youth Network is an enrichment program for the youth that are in the Guilford County area,” said Janice Buxton, coordinator for Youth Network. “It brings children together to work on their self-concept. We help encourage them and motivate them to be what they want to be in this life.”

Youth Network meets 10 Saturday’s per school semester at a house behind Christ United Methodist Church on Guyer Street, which is equally owned by both the church and HPU. Along with supplying student interns and faculty support, HPU maintains the property.

The program is available to Guilford County youth who need a little more assistance than others their age. The program is designed to provide the students with insight on their strengths and weaknesses, as well as prepare them for a fulfilling life through themed activities.

Dr. Pamela Palmer, Assistant Professor of Non-Profit Leadership and Management, has been working closely with Buxton to help lift up Youth Network.

“We noticed that in the community there are some children who actually need an outlet and that there should be something available to them for just enrichment,” explained Palmer. “And we know that Big Brothers, Big Sisters exists and Boys and Girls Club exists, we know that, but there is enough need to go around unfortunately.”

Palmer went on to clarify that this program is not an “after school tutorial or education program” but more so about “personal development and confidence building.”

A typical session starts at about 10 a.m. after the children are dropped off. They move inside the home and begin their prepared activities that revolve around a certain theme. Last semester the theme was leadership, and this semester the children are working on what it means to be a citizen of the community and how the students can give back.

“It’s basically just a safe place where these children can be themselves and have the opportunity to grow and develop their self-esteem, their self-confidence, just, you know, who they are as a person,” said Victoria Richards, a HPU senior and Youth Network intern.

Most of the day is spent teaching students about a given lesson around the theme. They play games, break off into smaller groups, and even have time for a one-on-one session with a HPU volunteer. The one-on-one sessions are used to focus on some of their academic weaknesses.

“If they have a hard time reading, we’re going to make sure they are doing an activity where they are reading to the volunteer,” said Richards. “If math is more of their struggle, then we will do an activity with math.”

Along with the theme, Richards and other volunteers try to incorporate four “zones” into the activities: self-discovery, power zone, inspiration nation, and peer connect.

However, the involvement and enrichment doesn’t just stop with the students. Parents are encouraged to stay involved with the program, and Buxton considers it the most important criteria for the students to become enrolled in the program.

“The parents give us a lot of support as well. That’s the only real criteria. I say there isn’t a criteria, but one of the criteria is that the parent’s participate in their child’s learning and being there with us, and they do,” said Buxton.

Currently, Youth Network has nine young boys enrolled in the program. The group size seems small, but it’s actually perfect for this type of program. The young boys enrolled have not only become friends and learned so much, but have created a bond that surpasses anything the volunteers could ask for.

“I love to see the support system that they see in us, but more importantly I love to see the support system they have in each other,” said Richards, smiling. “We just do simple activities and games, but they sometimes can be upset because they have to go to some kind of athletic event and miss our meeting. They’ve created this support system with each other that yes, we kind of designed, but they keep it together.”

Youth Network is always looking for student volunteers and people to help them fundraise. Palmer’s introductory non-profit class is working directly with the program to volunteer, and many sport programs, including women’s golf, have gone to Youth Network to volunteer their time as well.

When Buxton and Palmer decided to start Youth Network, their goal was to help and counsel young children in Guilford County; to help them strive and achieve for the best they could be. Now, they have a student following who have gained equally as much from volunteering as the students who have enrolled in the program.

“I just love engaging into activities with the children. I really enjoy watching them grow and develop and learn different things even about themselves and each other,” said Richards. “I never thought I would want something counseling wise with youth, but I love it.”

For more information on how to volunteer or offer fundraising for Youth Network, email Palmer (pmurill@highpoint.edu), Richards (richav10@highpoint.edu), or Buxton (jbuxton@tgcrrc.org).