Since its inception, Chautauqua Striders has made the welfare of children, youth and families in Jamestown and the surrounding area its ongoing mission. One of the first programs designed to offer support was Project REACH (Reaching Each Adult and Child in need of Help), specifically targeted towards Jamestown families in crisis. Focusing on the needs of both individual students and their immediate families, help and guidance are available to improve the quality of their everyday lives.
Currently, there are approximately 69 students and 35 households receiving advice and support. Project REACH makes every effort to give youth opportunities for broadening their horizons, opening the doors to learning, and developing new skills in order to guide them to a promising future. According to research by the Search Institute, there are 40 assets necessary for children and youth to thrive and succeed. Divided into two main categories essential for building strong adults, these assets can be defined as external and internal. Some examples of external assets are providing support and empowerment, setting boundaries and expectations, and using time constructively. Commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive self-esteem are representative of internal assets.
To support the 40 developmental assets, Project REACH offers many different activities, individually enriching and fun, but also centered on community service where students are able to know the joy of giving back to others. In addition, in order to further their educational possibilities, tours are arranged to local colleges and universities so students of Project REACH can get a first-hand look at what they might expect and experience in a college or trade school setting.
Another facet of Project REACH, in coordination with the YMCA, is the YMEN group, comprised of young men from high school. Meeting on a weekly basis, discussions center on issues relevant to their everyday lives including topics ranging from financial literacy and employability, to dealing with drugs and violence, to encouraging respectful communication with others. Building trusting relationships, reinforcing accountability and gaining knowledge for the future, these teens can move forward better prepared to meet life's challenges.
After a referral is received from a partnering agency, the Project REACH coordinator makes home visits for all students coming into the program. During these, he is not only able to explain what REACH has to offer and get permission for children and youth to participate but he can also get a sense of what individual family situations are like and provide links to available community services and resources specifically targeted to each unique circumstance. He has helped families in crisis through many difficulties that might otherwise tear them apart by connecting them to resources and people in the Jamestown Public Schools, the Department of Social Services, Department of Mental Health, the Safe House, Office of Probation and Legal Services. In addition, referrals are made to other Chautauqua Striders services including tutoring and mentoring.
Chautauqua Striders also provides support and guidance for students assigned to Jamestown Public School's Alternative Placement Program (APP). For a variety of reasons, these middle and high school youth have been unable to adapt to the expectations of the regular school day and find themselves most at risk. The APP liaisons meet with these individuals and their families, making home visits and appropriate agency referrals. They also encourage participation in other programs designed to help these students make healthy choices and work towards re-acclimating them to the regular school day and helping them on the road to academic and personal success.
At times, caring for young people does not involve agencies and connective services; sometimes it means helping them feel good about themselves as they continue to grow and mature. Sometimes success and self-esteem are measured in more immediate ways. Chautauqua Striders' high school mentoring and APP coordinators are working together to provide donated prom dresses to those young ladies who might not otherwise be able to afford them. Donations of beautiful dresses have poured in - dresses of every imaginable color, shape, and size. In fact, due to overwhelming response, this opportunity has been extended to Southwestern, Falconer and Frewsburg high schools. Esquire Cleaners has graciously agreed to dry clean and press each. Gowns will be selected on April 26 and May 3; dreams will come true, as high school senior women will be able to choose a gorgeous dress of their own at no cost. Chautauqua Striders would like to thank all donors for their generosity.
For more information on either REACH or APP, please call Chautauqua Striders at 488-2203.