Minnesota’s Youth Intervention Programs seem to be working. The state’s Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA) recently released the results of a five-year tracking study — the longest range study of its kind — that shows teens are really taking to heart what the programs are teaching.
There are 52 Youth Intervention Programs (YIPs) statewide, with 26 programs located in the Twin Cities area. YIPs are places that kids can go to for support and mentoring to help them get through whatever struggles they might be facing, including truancy, shoplifting, vandalizing property, bullying or other petty crimes that could lead to more serious offenses if left unaddressed.
“We work with kids that are just starting to get in trouble,” said Scott Beaty, executive director of the Minnesota Youth Intervention Programs Association. “We work with youth when they are at a ‘Y’ in the road. Our agency is designed to help these kids early and keep them out of the criminal justice system.”
The study tracked kids after one year of exiting a YIP to see if what they learned in a program had long-range effects. Students who addressed truancy experienced a 78 percent improvement in their school attendance record. School performance increased for 76 percent of the students who made that their priority, and 87 percent of the youth group that vowed to stay away from illegal activities still held true to their promise one year later.
During 2005, YIPA served more than 18,000 kids in Minnesota. Locally, Bolder Options, a Minneapolis-based youth intervention program, works with an average of 120 students each year to keep them from skipping school. Students who enroll at Bolder Options are matched with a mentor.
However, there’s more to this lesson than a lecture. Students and their mentors partake in physical fitness activities to help them achieve fitness goals, which in turn help the kids gain confidence to conquer other challenges in their lives.
“Bolder Options is a unique mentoring program that uses the activity of running and biking and goal-setting to change behaviors in youth,” said Daniel Pfarr, associate director of Bolder Options. “We are a good example of a youth intervention program, as we are community-based and have local support from the county, city, businesses, and greater community.”
Bolder Options was recently featured on NBC’s Today Show’s “Lend a Hand Today” series. The program highlighted a student, Quincey, and his mentor, Heidi. When Quincey first enrolled with Bolder Options he was a sixth-grader, but he lagged behind academically at a third-grade level in a special education class. After working with Heidi, Quincey lost 30 pounds and moved up three grade levels in his school.
Beaty, of YIPA, adds that what makes these programs work, like in the case of Quincey and his mentor Heidi, is that kids are being matched with someone who cares, “And that really means a lot.”
For more information about the YIPA study, or to learn about a program near you, “visit the Web site”:http://www.mnyipa.org or call 651-452-3589.