Youth just one focus of programs

Published 9:27 am Monday, July 20, 2015

The Ironton-Lawrence Community Action Organization’s (CAO) Family Guidance Center is taking strides to improve the lives of community members both old and young. The center offers a variety of programs aimed at helping clients of all ages lead healthy and productive lives.

Mollie Stevens, prevention and development manager for the center, has seen the benefits of the center’s youth programs. Stevens and staff facilitate youth programs that focus on giving children a positive educational and social environment.

Posted on the walls of the Riverhills Community Center where the center’s youth programs meet are messages encouraging young people to treat fellow participants with respect and kindness. Those messages are at the heart of what the youth programs is trying to accomplish.

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“There [are] enough negative things in the world,” said Stevens.

Those involved in the youth programs have taken that message to heart, just ask Devlin, a young student who enjoys tending the fruit and vegetable garden planted by the program’s youth.

“We’re here to build up, and not tear down,” said Devlin.

The CAO’s Youth Empowerment Activities program (YEA) is one way that Stevens and other staff help young people prepare for their future. YEA takes high school students and trains them to be positive role models and mentors for younger children.

“It empowers the high school students,” said Stevens.

Through YEA, high school students help with after-school programs, lend a helping hand with summer camps, and help with prevention programs that teach younger students about bullying and educate students about the danger of using drugs and other controlled substances.

Stevens has seen positive results in the lives of students who have gone through the program and said that many of the young people have turned out to be productive citizens with good jobs and a desire to invest in their communities. The Family Guidance Center also has educational programs that help students thrive academically.

Sixteen-year-old Kara Spencer, a member of the YEA high school staff, has been involved with the program since third grade and is already looking forward to helping with YEA after she graduates from college.

Before coming to the youth programs, Spencer said she was shy and had a hard time relating to people, but with the programs has overcome her fears.

“I got used to talking to people,” said Spencer. “I love talking to people.”

Spencer enjoys helping out with the youth prevention programs, and said she doesn’t like bullying or drugs. Although she will soon graduate from the YEA program, Spencer said she doesn’t want it to end.

The Family Guidance Center also provides support and counseling for people of all ages and provides treatment for a wide range of behavioral health or substance abuse problems. Jon Hurley, clinical director at the center, said that center offers a counseling program that is both individual and group.

Hurley enjoys working with the organization because of the opportunity it provides to help people make positive changes in their lives. A large number of clients struggling with substance abuse comes into the center, and Hurley said the center’s staff is there to help clients beat their addictions.

“We’re really trying to help them to discover their own strength,” said Hurley.

The center offers a range of services for clients who are trying to overcome their addictions. Counseling is tailored to the client’s need and treatment for addiction is based on a 12-step program, said Hurley. The center aims to help clients have the necessary tools to kick their addiction permanently. Hurley said that after receiving treatment, clients should be using their own skills to stay off drugs.

Although Hurley believes there is room for the center to grow and reach more people, he sees the center making a positive impact in the community.

“We are seeing success every day,” he said.

For more information about the CAO and the Family Guidance Center, visit them on the web at