Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dancing with the Stars Results

Photo by Darlene Passmore-Armstrong

Such amazing publicity...especially when a mentoring organization's team wins! Also, a fun fundraising idea for seven local organizations. At the bottom, don't miss the photos appropriated from the Volunteers for Youth Facebook page. Does this give you any ideas?

Davis, Ramirez among winners of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ competition
Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 8:45 am                                              

Celina Davis and Agustin “Gus” Ramirez were declared the “Best Darned Dancers in Rogers County” Saturday evening at the second annual “Dancing with the Stars of Rogers County,” presented by the Claremore Reveille Rotary Club at the Robson PAC. 

Co-sponsor of the evening was RCB Bank. 

Davis and Ramirez danced the Latin Mambo to the song “Mambo #5” while portraying Lucy and Desi Arnaz from the hit 1950s television show, “I Love Lucy.” 

Saturday’s event included seven teams of dancers representing seven local organizations. 

At the close of each performance, the ratings of three illustrious judges were combined to determine overall scores for each team. Davis and Ramirez represented Volunteers for Youth. 
Audience members cast their vote for the “People’s Choice Award” by giving money to their favorite dancers’ organization. 
The duo’s organization received the most votes, totaling more than $700. 
The amount deposited among all of the participating organizations totaled more than $3,000. 
Judges for the evening included Claremore City Manager Jim Thomas, RSU Public TV IT Specialist Dan Kara and his wife, Rogers County Salvation Army Board of Directors member Debbie Kara. 
In addition to earning the “People’s Choice Award,” Davis and Ramirez received a nearly perfect score of 29 from the judges. 
“Dancing with the Stars of Rogers County” is a celebration of helping others through the efforts of individuals and organizations represented said Rev. Sam Nichols, president of the Claremore Reveille Rotary Club. 
“Two years ago, Dr. Richard Mosier served as president of the Claremore Reveille Rotary Club, and during that time, he was looking for ways to involve our club more in the life of our community, promoting the activities of the non-profit organizations in Rogers County,” said Nichols. “He is responsible for organizing and launching the first ‘Dancing with the Stars’ last year. We appreciate the work that (Mosier) has put forth, as well as, our event chair Steve Gragert and the community in making this celebration a success.” 
Judges’ awards were presented to the 14 individual dancers of the evening, and included the “Bring Down the House” award, presented to Angie Graves, the “Broadway” award presented to Celina Davis, the “Crowd-Pleaser” presented to Tom Cameron, the “Dazzler” award presented to Chris Heath, the “Dizzy Dance” award presented to Chelsey Helt, the “Hair-Raising” award presented to Jim Anderson, the “Hollywood” award to Renetta Harrison, the “Humor” award to Kessiah Neff, the “Best Smile” award to Cearra Curtis, the “A Star is Born” award presented to Shawna Hendricks, the “Survivor” award presented to Mark Curtis, the “Twinkle Toes” award to Germaine Watkins, the “Wow!” award presented to Gus Ramirez and the “Most Energetic” award presented to Tyson Harris.    Ret. 8-28-14

'Mouthwatering teaser...yum!
Evening gown to be auctioned

Celina & Gus
aka Lucy & Ricky
The Winners!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Volunteers for Youth Fundraising, etc.

Mendy Stone, executive director of Volunteers for Youth in Rogers County, has contributed an informative post. We appreciate Stone's creativity, vision and accomplishment--and extraordinary energy!

Long gone are the days when, as the sole employee/program director, I would wrap up the school year and essentially take the summer off.  These days, Volunteers for Youth employs six project directors and two assistants, and I am the Executive Director.  A fledgling organization with a single, school-based mentoring program has evolved into one that is regionally recognized and supports an additional five projects all focused on making Rogers County youth successful.  This means no more summers off!

The weekend that school ended in May we hosted our first fundraiser event of the year which was a tennis tournament called Serve For Youth.  Nearly 30 teams competed in the doubles brackets along with a few men’s singles entries.  Over $2,400 was our profit from the event. 

One week later we “kicked off” our annual Green Country All Stars event.  This unique event is a favorite of mine because, while it does serve as a fundraiser, it also allows us to shine the spotlight on successful senior athletes from around our area.  

The concept began in the early 1990's when our local Lions Club began hosting an all star football game for graduating senior football players who were nominated to play by their coaches.  In the early years of Volunteers for Youth, we needed a fundraising event, and my husband suggested that I contact the Lions Club and see if we could tag onto their success and add basketball games for boys and girls on the same weekend. 

That is when Green Country All Star Weekend was born. The next year we added baseball, followed the next year by softball and later cheerleaders were nominated and selected as well. Hundreds of fans attend the two days of sports hosted by an area high school’s athletic facilities. We rally dozens of volunteers to take gate admissions, run score clocks, be announcers, and sell gate admissions/t-shirts/programs. Advertisement spots are sold in the program and sponsors are solicited to add to the revenue produced. The event annually brings in anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000.

Waterfront Frames & Art

Four weeks after All Stars, we held a brand new fundraising event called a Chair-ity Auction. Heavy promotion helped us exceed all expectations for a first-time event, and we were extremely pleased with our nearly $4,000 profit.  Although we learned lessons and made notes for next time, it was exciting to have 36 live auction items (mostly creatively re-purposed chairs) all contributed by friends of our organization.  

Vintage Charm
The Elks Club
A couple of weeks before the event, we decided to add a second dimension and invited folks to donate “recycled art” for a silent auction.  Dozens of interesting contributions came through the doors including jewelry, framed art, accent pillows, wall décor and even a decoupage Tom Selleck photo!  That added twist was over $1,100 of our profit!  We’re already planning for the next time and plan to move it to February. 

BLAST Summer Camp Participants
Week one of BLAST summer camp was going on during the same week as the “Chair-ity Auction." Then less than two weeks later, our Drug Free Communities Project Director tapped into most of the rest of us for help at the Regional Conference for Youth to Youth International, which she has successfully brought to the campus of Rogers State University the last three summers.   

Youth to Youth Conference

Our highest producing fundraiser each year is our Smokin’ Hot 100 Golf Marathon, which took place at our local golf course on July 22nd.  Not a typical golf tournament, it generates considerably more money.  

Our participants agree to play 100 holes of golf in the July heat and self-pledge at $1.00 per hole.  They also agree to seek out matching pledge support from their own network of friends, family and co-workers.  Playing 100 holes is made possible due to some modified rules, but it is still A LOT OF GOLF swings resulting in soreness, sunburn and glorious fatigue.  This year we will once again raise $25,000 from this single event.

Andrew V, Kayla & Cindy V
Mendy, Trisha, Linda & Judi
Making ice cream

Each summer we also plan a picnic get-together for our PAL mentor/mentee pairs so they have at least one opportunity to see each other while out of school.  We call it our “tors & tees” picnic. 

This year it was held on Saturday, July 26th at our newly renovated Will Rogers Park, which features a splash pad.  

Damien & Kit

The kids and mentors made homemade ice cream in a bag which was quite fun, delicious & messy! We love our local Sonic manager who never tells us “no” and she donated the corn dogs for the event.

Katelyn & Miranda shake ice cream pack

They survived...and not just the Smokin' Hot 100 Golf Marathon!

The following Monday week two of summer BLAST camp began, and we had 45 kids from 4th to 8th grade all day long each day.  Just about the same amount of kids attended week one back in June.  This is a highly organized, action-packed week of fun for the kids including field trips and lots of physical fitness.  My job is to teach tennis every afternoon for about 90 minutes…I love it!

We have enjoyed a fairly quite month of August so far, but school starts this week at all of our schools so we’re getting ready to kick into high gear again. 

On August 23rd, we will be one of the featured organizations in our local Dancing with the Stars event.  This is the second year for the event, which is put together by our Reveille Rotary Club.  Held in our beautiful Performing Arts Center, the format closely follows the real Dancing With the Stars from television.  I will once again be co-emcee, and the couple representing our organization is our PAL Project Director, Celina Davis, and our mentor of the year, Gus Ramirez. Dancing the Mambo, they will portray themselves as Lucy & Ricky.  We’re going for another Judges Choice victory again this year!

Other events on the horizon will be those organized by our local United Way during the campaign, our annual Board Retreat, and an all-county principals/counselors luncheon that we host each year in September.

Whew!  Where did the good ole days go?


Shared 8-12-14

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Youth-inspired Changes to Organization Environment

From the Chronicle of Evidence-based Mentoring, University of Massachusetts, Boston
By  August 19, 2014 

Encourage relationship building between youth & adults with these 10 youth-inspired changes to your organization’s environment

Bernadette Sanchez
By Bernadette Sánchez, Tené Gray, and Elsa Rodriguez
We have been working on a research project with Hive Chicago to understand relationship building between youth and adults. Hive Chicago is a diverse network of civic and cultural institutions that is focused on transforming the learning landscape by empowering youth and educators to enact Connected Learning. Connected Learning is an educational process that links youth’s academic studies, personal passions and opportunities via the support of peers, adults and institutions. The goal of Connected Learning is to create new pathways to college, career and civic pursuits.
We recently conducted 5 focus groups with 26 youth who are served by Hive Chicago organizations. Youth talked about their interactions with adults in and outside these organizations. One of the most fascinating parts of the discussions was about the role that settings play in facilitating relationship building between adults and youth. Below are the ideas that youth discussed regarding the tangible and intangible aspects of the environment that help youth and adults get to know one another:
Tangible characteristics of the environment
  1. Physical space
    Create space that is fun, happy, colorful, and playful. Space should be large enough to allow for activities and location should be easily accessible.
  2. Décor/furniture
    Invest in comfortable couches; paper on tables and white boards for students to write on.
  3. Organization of space/office that allows for equal interactions
    Create open offices and shared spaces that allow access to staff at all times.
  4. Designated spaces for specific kinds of activities
    Incorporate designated spaces for working, creating, and socializing.
  5. Furniture is engaging, creative and spontaneous in the room set-up
    Try structuring the seating in a circle or zig-zag.
  6. Smaller setting/Group sizeUse multiple small groups for activities as opposed to a single classroom sized group.
Intangible characteristics of the environment
  1. Staff work as a team with youth
    Don’t adopt a strict hierarchy; staff treats each other with respect and staff treats students with respect.
  2. Informal & Laid backCreate an environment that is less restrictive than other formal settings such as schools.
  3. Non-evaluative supportive learning environment
    Make sure staff are there to help youth without evaluating them (i.e., grades)
  4. Flexibility
    Create a policy whereby youth are welcome to engage in activities or just hang out.
We hope you can use this information to better reach youth and get to know them!
Ret. 8-20-14

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mentoring Relationships - Click or Fail?

From the Chronicle of Evidence-based Mentoring, University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Dr. Jean Rhodes, mentoring researcher

Some mentoring relationships click while others falter. Here’s 7 reasons…

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 8.55.41 AMby Jean Rhodes
We all know that mentoring relationships affect different youth in different ways. Even the most caring, consistent mentors may struggle to connect with certain youth, while other matches click from the start. Researchers have found that the quality of adult-youth relationships is conditioned by a wide range of individual, family, and contextual influences, including:
1.  Interpersonal History
Children and adolescents who have enjoyed healthy relationships with their parents may more easily be drawn to adults as role models and confidants. In such cases, the relationship may focus more on the acquisition of skills and the advancement of critical thinking than on emotional issues. Researchers have  found that, compared with those who did not report having a natural mentor, adolescents with natural mentors recalled early relationships with their mothers as more accepting.  Soucy and Larose (2014) found evidence that the positive effects of mentors were stronger among those youths who reported having higher levels of security in their relationships with their mothers. This suggests that mentors may not entirely compensate for insecure family bonds. Instead, they may be beneficial as long as there is already a minimum level of support from at least one parent.
However, those who have experienced unsatisfactory or difficult parental ties may initially resist the overtures of a caring adult, but over time develop more intense bonds with their mentors that help to satisfy their social and emotional needs. Mentoring relationships also may serve to compensate for absent relationships. Immigrant youths, for example, many of whom have suffered long separations from their parents, may gravitate to mentors for compensatory emotional support. Mentors may provide these youths with a safe haven for learning new cultural norms and practices, as well as with information that is vital to success in school (Roffman, Suarez-Orozco, & Rhodes, 2002; Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2003). The same holds true for youths in foster homes, many of whom have suffered child abuse and neglect. Rhodes et al. (2009) found that foster youths derived greater interpersonal benefits (i.e., improvements in peer relationships, heightened trust and comfort in interactions with others) than nonfoster youth.
2. Social Competencies
Youth who are better able to regulate their emotions and who have positive temperaments and/or other engaging attributes may be primed for higher levels of involvement with adults than are peers who lack these attributes. Werner and Smith (1982), for example, observed that youths who had thrived despite adversity tend to have hobbies or other interests and a capacity to connect with adults through those activities. More generally, youths with higher levels of social competence tend to be held in higher regard by their peers and teachers (Morison & Masten, 1991). The research on mentoring bears this out: Adolescents who are overwhelmed by social or behavioral problems tend to be less likely to benefit from mentoring. Grossman and Rhodes (2002), for example, found that mentoring relationships with adolescents who had been referred for psychological treatment or who had sustained emotional, sexual, or physical abuse were less likely to remain intact. Such youths appear to have more difficulties trusting adults and may have little experience with behaviors that establish and maintain closeness and support (Lynch & Cicchetti, 1997).
3. Developmental Stage
The mentee’s age may also affect the nature and course of a mentoring relationship. For example, whereas early adolescents who are beginning to struggle with identity issues may wish to engage in abstract conversations with their mentors, children whose levels of cognitive sophistication are less advanced may benefit more from structured activities (Keating, 1990). In addition, adolescents on the brink of adulthood may be less interested in establishing emotional ties with mentors, instead gravitating to peers and vocational skill-building activities. Older adolescents tend to be more peer oriented than their younger counterparts and less likely to sustain their involvement in structured mentoring programs. Indeed, researchers have found that relationships with older adolescents are characterized by lower levels of closeness , heightened risk for termination during any given month (Grossman & Rhodes, 2002), and shorter duration than those with younger youths. A mentor who is attuned to his or her mentee’s developmental stage, and adjusts to it accordingly can create an optimal stage-environment fit  and are better positioned to meet the child’s developmental needs.
4. Relationship Duration
As noted previously, the benefits of mentoring appear to accrue over a relatively long period of time. Evidence for the importance of relationship duration has emerged from the BBBSA studies of CBM and SBM programs cited previously (Grossman & Rhodes, 2002; Herrera et al., 2007). These findings are consistent with other studies, as well as meta-analyses (e.g., DuBois et al. 2011).
5. Program Practices
Programs that offer adequate infrastructure increase the likelihood that relationships can endure difficult periods (DuBois et al., 2002; Rhodes, 2002). In fact, program practices that support the mentor and relationship (i.e., training for mentors, offering structured activities for mentors and youth, having high expectations for frequency of contact, and monitoring of overall program implementation) produce stronger positive effects. These practices, which speak to a program’s ability to not only match mentors and youths but also sustain those matches, converge with the beneficial practices identified by other researchers. Unfortunately, moving youths off long wait lists can sometimes take priority over creating high-quality matches. Even among the growing number of programs with careful recruitment, screening, and matching, a relatively smaller proportion devote themselves to in-depth training of volunteers or ongoing support to the mentors. Cost, combined with a general reluctance to make demands on volunteers, is the primary obstacle to providing more sustained involvement and infrastructure beyond the initial match.
6. Family Context
The likelihood of a child’s or adolescent’s forming strong ties with mentors may be affected by a range of processes in the family, including the encouragement and opportunities that parents provide for the development of such ties. Families characterized by sensitivity to others’ ideas and needs and open expression of views are more likely to encourage adolescents to become involved in positive relationships outside the family (Cooper, Grotevant, & Condon, 1983). With specific relevance to mentoring, children and adolescents with more supportive parental relationships and higher levels of shared family decision making have been found to be more likely to report natural mentors. Parents who actively cultivate connections and channel their children to community-based recreational and social programs also may increase the likelihood that their children will form beneficial relationships with adults beyond the nuclear family . Mentoring programs that reach out to parents tend to have greater success in shaping youth outcomes. Other family-related factors, including stability and mobility, can facilitate or hinder the establishment and maintenance of strong ties.
7. Neighborhood Ecology
Researchers have observed that extracurricular activities and supportive relationships with adults tend to be more beneficial to adolescents raised in urban poverty than to lower risk youths, who encounter more supportive adults in their everyday lives. Indeed, neighborhood characteristics and norms (i.e., neighborhood effects) can influence the availability of caring, informal adult ties as well as the willingness of volunteers to genuinely connect with children and adolescents. Changing family and marital patterns, crowded schools, and less cohesive communities have dramatically reduced the availability of caring adults in the lives of youths (Putnam, 2000).Even when they are available, however, fewer American adults are willing to offer support and guidance to unrelated youths. Parents have come to be considered solely responsible for their children, so the involvement of other adults is often met with suspicion and discomfort (Scales, 2003). Indeed, words like clergy, uncles, and even neighbors no longer simply conjure images of front-porch warmth and goodwill; they also evoke parental anxiety and confusion about the boundaries of trust and safety. Similarly, as mentoring programs increasingly accommodate volunteers’ busy schedules, they have eased requirements for relationship commitment and intensity. The result in some cases has been the formation of perfunctory ties that resemble, but share little in common with, the long-term community-based relationships from which they have evolved . In essence, changing family and neighborhood configurations, busy schedules, and shifting norms regarding adult involvement in the lives of youths have limited the likelihood that youths will engage in the sorts of caring relationships with mentors that can lead to developmental change. 
Ret. 8-20-14

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Recruiting during Welcome Week at a College

Mendy Stone, executive director of Volunteers for Youth, Rogers County, shares one effective and fun strategy.

We just spent from 10 am to 2 pm today on the campus at Rogers State University (RSU) in Claremore. This is Welcome Week, and one of their activities is to host “Big Tent Day.” 

Cindy Vanaman, PAL. Stone is holding the red cup. 
In the blue shirt is PAL Mentor of the Year 2014, Gus Ramirez.
Two big tents provided table space for all kinds of on-campus clubs, local businesses, and volunteer opportunities. 

We have a good number of great prospects. We attracted them to the table with fresh popcorn, and our conversation started with 

“May we tell you about the volunteer opportunities at our organization?”

At least four of the senses are covered here!

All sidewalks lead to V4Y and popcorn!

Melynda Stone
Executive Director
Volunteers for Youth

Shared 8-13-14

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Importance of Coaches

We found this in a tweet by the Chronicle of Evidence-based Mentoring, University of Massachusetts, Boston. Items a) through h) can be the goals, not just outcomes, for all coaching-mentoring. CEBM posted this research in support of the Coaches' Mentoring Challenge 2014. 

Why coaches matter: Implications for mentoring By Ronald E. Smith and Frank L. Smoll
Ronald E. Smith and Frank L. Smoll are Professors of Psychology at the University of Washington and co-directors of the Youth Enrichment in Sports Project. The website contains descriptions of the coach and parent interventions and of their underlying scientific studies. Their book, Sports Psychology for Youth Coaches: Developing Champions in Youth and Life is a must-read for anyone interested in this important topic.
Today, approximately 68 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 16 participate in athletic programs in the United States. There is strong scientific evidence that an important determinant of youth sport outcomes (which are not always positive) lies in the relationship between coach and athlete, and that a relatively brief and economical educational intervention can enhance the experiences of both athletes and coaches alike. In our Youth Enrichment in Sport Project, we have done research over the past three decades to determine the effects of coaching behaviors on children. In one series of studies, trained observers coded more than 100,000 coaching behaviors during practices and games to create behavioral profiles of numerous coaches, then assessed the attitudes of their athletes after the season. Clear behavior-outcome relations emerged, and we then applied this information to create an evidence-based intervention for coaches
Because we know from our research the kind of sport environment that has the most positive effects on youngsters, we can communicate clear behavioral guidelines (coaching and parenting “do’s” and “don’t’s”) in a workshop format. In a series of experimental program evaluation studies, we and other sport psychologists have shown that our Mastery Approach to Coaching intervention 
(a) fosters positive coach-athlete relations and greater mutual respect. 
(b) increases the amount of fun that athletes experience; 
(c) creates greater team cohesion and a more supportive athletic setting; 
(d) promotes higher mastery-oriented achievement goals in sports and in school; 
(e) increases athletes’ self-esteem; 
(f) reduces performance-destroying anxiety and fear of failure; 
(g) decreases athlete dropout rates from approximately 30% to 5% regardless of won/lost records, and 
(h) has equally positive effects on male and female athletes. 
Consistently, we find that the coach-athlete relationship is far more important than winning records in determining children’s liking and desire to play for the coach in the future. Moreover, the 75-minute Mastery Approach workshops, far from being perceived as burdensome, are very well received by coaches who later report that applying the principles not only created a more enjoyable season for their athletes and themselves, but also positively influenced their own parenting practices. More recently, in an effort to get coaches and parents on the same page, we have developed a companion Mastery Approach program for parents of young athletes.
Given the success of these brief evidence-based interventions, we have entered the dissemination phase of our work. With the support of the William T. Grant Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting children’s welfare, we have transformed the coach and parent workshops into 60-minute DVDs and have recently published “how-to” books on the Mastery Approach to assist coaches and parents in promoting children’s growth through sports. Information on these materials is available on our project website ( We would be happy if every sport program in the country profited from what we have learned and produced.
We are convinced that any program disseminated to coaches and parents should have a sound scientific basis and evidence for its effectiveness. If we want sport participation to have its desired positive impact on the lives and development of young athletes, coach (and parent) education is not only feasible, but essential.
By Jean Rhodes October 1, 2012


Ret. 8-12-14

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Recruiting, Omaha Style

We like this idea of the city-wide mentor recruitment. What could your city or county do?
The Second Annual City-Wide Mentor Recruitment Campaign is Here!
By Whitney Mastin
August 1st marked the start of the 2nd Annual City-wide Mentor Recruitment Campaign for Midlands Mentoring Partnership (MMP). Midlands Mentoring Partnership is a Collective Impact organization that partners with 11 mentoring agencies in the Omaha area to increase both the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships.
MMP Partner Organizations:
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the MidlandsGirls Incorporated of Omaha
Hope Center for Kids
Kent Bellows Mentoring Program
Kids Can Community Center
Ollie Webb Inc.
Partnership 4 Kids
Release Ministries
TeamMates Mentoring Program
Youth Emergency Services
100 Black Men of Omaha, Inc.
In Omaha alone, there are 30,000 youth living under the poverty line. Of those 30,000, only 3000 have been fortunate enough to gain the helpful guidance and support of a formal mentor. “Our youth can grow into responsible and contributing members of society with the right supports in place, and for only four hours a month, each of us can make a significant difference,” said John Ewing, MMP Board Member. During the 2014 recruitment campaign, MMP, along with its partners, aims to recruit more than 640 additional mentors to support the youth in our community.
Quality Mentoring Relationships in the Community Can Lead to:
Fewer teen dropouts
A decrease in teen substance abuse
Fewer teen pregnancies
A more engaged workforce for businesses who have employees that mentor
On Wednesday, August 4, 2014, MMP kicked off its campaign with a press conference that included remarks from Mayor Jean Stothert, and President and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber, David Brown. Mayor Stothert encouraged Omaha citizens to learn more about becoming a mentor, while David Brown stated “We don’t coast—we mentor!” MMP Board President, Julie Hefflinger may have said it best when she stated, “Regardless of your background or age, the greatest gift you have to offer a young person is your genuine interest in their life and your willingness to listen attentively to them. Mentoring experiences come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but all mentors help young people achieve their potential and discover their strengths.”
Interested in becoming a mentor? Want to learn more about the programs you volunteer for? Visit to find out which program is best for you. You can also find more information and follow our campaign progress on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter.
Ret. 8-11-14

Monday, August 11, 2014

Coach Encourages Team to Join Camp Fire

John Wolfkill
Executive Director
KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory
From the perspective of a former player who is now reflecting back on his experience as a youth...

When I was in elementary school, I played baseball on the Rangers. Although I knew several of my team mates at the beginning of the baseball season, about half the team attended different elementary schools. Initially, all we had in common was our love of baseball and the uniform we wore. 

To help us grow as a team, our coach encouraged all of us to join a local Camp Fire club. Through our weekly practice, weekly Camp Fire club, and the host of other Camp Fire activities (camp outs, special events, etc.), we grew to be more than just a team, we became a close-knit group of friends who did everything together. 

Although Camp Fire's team and character building development programming did not make us better baseball players, it did make us a better team. As the season progressed, we communicated better on the field, were known as one of the most positive teams in the league (even won a few sportsmanship awards), and found ourselves on a strong winning streak by the end of the season. We became more than team mates; we became good friends. In fact, a few of my close friends today are two of my Ranger team mates. Without a doubt, those friendships and the strength of our baseball team are a direct result of our Camp Fire experience. 

John Wolfkill
Executive Director
KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory

Email, 7-21-14

Deric Williams, program director of Camp Fire Green Country, Tulsa, first told us this story and then asked John to share it. Thanks to Deric and to John!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fundraising - BaconFest 2013, Chicago

As we mention periodically, every small town in Oklahoma probably has or should have its own local festival to bring money into the local economy.

In Chicago, BaconFest is a huge hit with $50,000 of the proceeds going into the local food bank. Local restaurants display their best and most creative bacon recipes including bacon desserts.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

LGBTQ Youth Resources

Mentoring groups as well as schools and religious institutions have young people who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender or questioning. The Center for Disease Control has some often dire statistics on these youths, who are bullied in multiple ways.

Regardless of differences, these are still highly at-risk children, teenagers or young adults who need nonjudgmental mentoring (and/or parental) relationships.

Below are two sites. The National Resource Center for Youth Development (NRCYD) has resources for "Youth in Care," but those of us not mentoring youth in care can still learn from the information. The second source is from the Center for Disease Control.


Thanks to Kathy Taylor of Life Launch, a program of Stand in the Gap Ministries, for sharing the NRCYD organization and resources with us. The LGBTQ section is just one important topic on the website.

Life Launch mentors foster alumni in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas.

Ret. 8-7-14

Friday, August 8, 2014

Preventing Teen Pregnancy

Mentoring organizations can train with mentors to address prevention of teen pregnancy. As the Oklahoma teen birthrate suggests, just expecting or demanding abstinence does not work. Education is a critical key for male and female mentees.

Prevention key to combating teen pregnancy

From left highschool students, Micayla Thibodeaux (17) and Chase Gulliver (17), present a Teen EmPower class to 7the graders at Delcrest Middle school with Exec Director Kathy Harms. (Shannon Cornman)
From left highschool students, Micayla Thibodeaux (17) and Chase Gulliver (17), 
present a Teen EmPower class to 7the graders at Delcrest Middle school with Exec 
Director Kathy Harms. (Shannon Cornman)
The truth
One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or in this case millions of Oklahoma tax                   dollars each year. In 2010, the state of Oklahoma spent $169 million on teen childbearing.             However, very little money is allocated for expanding education to prevent teen pregnancy.

“Many nonprofits are about reacting,” said Kathy Harms, executive director and founder of            Teen EmPower. “They are spending time and resources working with pregnant teens, and                   I say let’s back up a bit. Let’s try to increase education so the teen doesn’t end up in the           situation.”

Ten years ago, Harms began Teen emPower with the focus of preventing adolescents from                     taking part in high-risk actions through youth education.

“We need to take a prevention approach,” Shanté Fenner, education and training director                     at Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, said. “We educate on the importance of wearing                 seat belts. We talk about the reasons why we shouldn’t smoke. Why would we want to                       prevent teaching accurate information on this topic?”

Overall, teen birth rates are going down. Six years ago, Oklahoma had 7,581 births to girls               ages 19 and younger; in 2013, the state had 5,379 births to girls ages 19 and younger — a 29       percent decrease.

However, to put that into perspective, more 18-19-year-olds in Oklahoma gave birth in recent       years than entered the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma StateUniversity as freshman.
“The teen birth rate in Oklahomahas ranked too high for way too long,” said Sharon Rodine,        youth initiatives director at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. “The benefits of        preventing youth pregnancy are enormous. Other challengessuch as child neglect, poverty,           even unemployment can be affected by this. The good news is that this is preventable.”

Currently, there is not a teen pregnancy rate because there is no way to accurately track       pregnancy rates. However, what is monitored is teen birth rates, and in 2012, Oklahoma             ranked 49th in the country — just ahead of New Mexico — for the highest teen birth rate of             girls ages 15-19 and 50th (the highest and worst) in the country for ages 18-19.
“In our country, we do poor job of discussing sexuality with young people. And as a             result, we have the highest rate of teen births of any of the industrialized nations in                    the world, and for many sexuality transmitted diseases,” Harms said.
Not really reality
Reality television, music and filmpromote or even glorify teen pregnancy; however, the                   truth is an extremely different picture. For Harms, the hardships of teen pregnancy began                   at 15 and increased after giving birth at 16.
“For many years, I would have to wonder, ‘Am I going to pay the gas bill or am I going                 to pay the electric?’ because I knew I wasn’t going to be paying both,” Harms said. “Or                   I would wonder, ‘Am I going to buy diapers or am I going to pay rent?’”
The majority of teen mothers are single, and the demand to do whatever it takes to make                 ends meet becomes overwhelming. Many times, this results in not being able to dedicate 100     percent of your time to your child due to the demands of work and overall survival. In many         cases, it is the child that suffers.

“Whenever you are going to take a child to daycare, what do you think is the first thing a               single parent is going to ask?” Harms asked. “While it should be, ‘Are you going to take care                of and protect my child?’ actually, it is ‘How much?’ And the lowest bidder … is the winner.”

It’s about education
Nelson Mandela believed education to be the most powerful weapon available to change the         world. Harms and Teen emPower’s mission follows a similar undertaking. Their approach               isn’t about pro-life or pro-choice; it’s about pro- prevention and educating teens.

“It is so widely promoted that talking to teens about the subject promotes it; however, this                   is just not true. [It’s difficult to get] people [to] understand we are not promoting [sex], we                 are about promoting healthy information,” Harms said. “You are nota bad person for               thinking about sex. You are not a bad person if you have had sex. You just need to know               what all is involved with it.”

Rodine believes in youth education and that there is a role for everyone in teen pregnancy       prevention. This is the thought behind Advocates for Youth’s Let’s Talk Month, which takes           place this October. Parents, caring adults, youth- serving organizations and communities can       focus on ways individuals can help young people make good decisions and avoiding risk-taking behaviors.

“Let’s Talk Month encourages parents and caring adults to be available and open to young            people in talking about healthy relationships and preventing teen pregnancy,” Rodine said.              “We don’t want this focused on school sexuality education or clinic programs. We want the           focus on parent-child communication, tips for parents, ideas for increasing community         awareness and opportunities to talk with and guide youth.”

Understanding the diverse backgrounds of families within the community has been a large               part of the success of Let’s Talk Month. The program allows agencies, religious institutions,   businesses, media, schools and parent groups to plan events that inspire parent/child     communication about sexuality.
“Society has this notion that information [about sex education] is being taught at                  school or at home,” Fenner said. “It’s being shown that its not. Simply put, parents                     are the best educators, and we must teach accurate information.” 

Ret. 8-6-14