Guest post from our partners at Peace Neighborhood Center
Samantha is the youngest daughter of a single-parent household headed by her mother along with her two older sisters. Samantha was a sixth grader in Peace Neighborhood Center's Alternatives for Youth After School Program this past school year, a program funded in part by United Way.
When Samantha first started coming to Alternatives for Youth, she exhibited severe social issues that were impacting her success in school. While she was doing average work academically, she demonstrated very poor social skills. It came to the staff members' attention that she was fearful of interacting with others and often suffered panic attacks when forced to do so. She had no meaningful relationships with her peers and had difficulty advocating for herself or expressing her opinion to others.
Peace Neighborhood Center staff members identified the problem as a form of social anxiety disorder and worked with her teachers and mother to address the issue. While at Peace, staff members worked one-on-one with her and got her involved in the STARS Mentorship for Girls program. As a part of this program, Samantha was challenged to come out of her shell and interact with the other girls in the program, but in a comfortable setting with the support of Peace staff members.
Samantha's inclusion in daily activities at Peace slowly began to make changes in her social behaviors. Over the course of the school year, she spent less time removed from others and took her nose out of the books she constantly brought with her as a defense mechanism. She began to smile more and joke with others. She is now an active participant in the STARS group. She also is demonstrating a better ability to advocate for herself and to express her opinion to others. At school, her academics have also shown improvement as she is more engaged in her studies and with her classmates. She has not experienced a panic attack in months. "Peace Center makes me feel safe. It's a fun place." - Samantha
While Peace Neighborhood Center has often dealt with behavioral issues, it is more common for the children in the program to demonstrate delinquent or angry behavior. Dealing with a social anxiety disorder requires a different approach, one that discipline alone will not address. Thankfully, Peace Neighborhood Center staff members are trained to address a wide array of issues utilizing various youth development strategies and approached Samantha's issues with love and patience to great success.
The grant from United Way of Washtenaw County and the Coordinated Funders is crucial to Peace Neighborhood Center’s ability to provide services to as many youth in need as possible. Without the financial backing of Coordinated Funding and the United Way of Washtenaw County, Peace would be forced to reduce the size and scope of their youth programs, leaving students like Samantha unable to receive after-school help to work on her issues.
United Way of Washtenaw County, along with our Coordinated Funding partners, support programs to ensure that youth feel physically and emotionally safe in and out of school. We're proud to have partners like Peace Neighborhood Center in this vital work! Learn more about our Five Priority Areas of funding: Early Childhood, School-Age Youth, Housing & Homelessness, Safety Net Health & Nutrition, and Seniors.