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Youth In Action

2010-11 Youth in Action Program Highlights »
2008-09 Youth in Action Program Highlights »

Youth In Action is an after-school enrichment program at Milwood Magnet Middle School in Kalamazoo, Mich. The program was developed to help students handle the pressures they face to take part in unhealthy behaviors as they transition from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school. The program focuses heavily on educational enrichment and offers a life-lesson curriculum aimed at reinforcing healthy lifestyles and leadership. The program offers academic support, as well as field trips, athletics and teambuilding activities. Youth In Action students are often mentored by high school students including the Kalamazoo Jeter's Leaders.

2009-10 Program Highlights

APRIL 2010

During the month of April, the Youth In Action students started a new venture with the Open Roads Bike Program. Open Roads is a nonprofit organization that was created to help youth learn valuable vocational and social skills through bicycle repair and restoration. While working with the students in fixing up old bikes, Open Roads also focuses heavily on social skills such as eye contact, conflict resolution and assertiveness. When asked what kinds of things were learned at Open Roads, one student replied, "Own up to your actions, respect others, and tools to fix a bike."

Throughout the month, the students continued with their paper-recycling project and other daily activities. They even had time to take part in a tour of Western Michigan University where they learned the requirements of getting into college and the resources available to facilitate the process.

As the end of the year approached, the YIA students were rewarded with a camping trip. During the camping trip, the students participated in activities that focused on making healthy personal choices, taking healthy risks and expressing themselves freely. One day, the students participated in a high ropes course that was a scary, yet rewarding experience. "I said to myself, I know I can, and I did it," one student commented. The camping trip was an overwhelming success, enjoyed by all the participants and provided an excellent opportunity for the students to bond.

Following the successful camping trip, the YIA students had an overnight stay at the Adventure Centre in Kalamazoo. The event included a number of activities, including another high ropes course, and this time they were able to make the connection with their work on the course and real life experiences. In a discussion, the students unraveled the similarities of how working hard on the ropes course can get one all the way to the top of the wall, and how achieving life goals is hard, but if one works just as hard at the task and does not give up, anyone can reach their goals. The high ropes course was definitely the highlight of the trip.

MARCH 2010

The month of March was busy one for the YIA program. Social emotional learning and leadership development has widely improved throughout the course of the year. Students revisited a group jump-rope activity that was unsuccessful earlier in the year. It was physically challenging and required commitment and communication from all participants. During the activity, students took on alternating leadership roles and through goal setting and teamwork, they successfully completed the challenge. Revisiting previous unsuccessful activities has allowed the students to experience two of Derek's 10 Life Lessons -- 'Don't Be Afraid to Fail' and 'Have a Strong Supporting Cast.'

Regular program activities including the recycling initiative, academic assistance and yoga continue to thrive at YIA. The participants wrapped up their final yoga sessions by learning how to enhance their focus and reduce stress in school and at home. They have encouraged more teachers to join in their recycling project and the students are inspiring more students to help as well.

New in March was the addition of the Young Chefs Academy. Through this venture, the students will learn culinary skills, healthy nutrition tips and safe food-handling skills. After four sessions in March, they concluded by making homemade ravioli from scratch. A number of Turn 2 Kalamazoo Signature Programs attend the Young Chef's Academy and feel that the program is a great addition to their curriculum.


In February, the Youth In Action students continued working on communication and group problem solving. The students had great successes during one particular Adventure Center day. The group had recently attempted a rock-climbing activity that had caused a lot of frustration, so they decided to give it another try. During the second time around, the activity turned out very successful and productive! The activity required a lot of concentration, cooperation, willingness to include everyone and giving and receiving feedback. The students are learning not to give up and keep striving toward their goals. They realized that by working together, they could accomplish a lot!

To build healthy lifestyles, the basics of self-control and relaxation were taught through yoga sessions. The students truly enjoy practicing the stretches and skills that they learned through the lessons.

The students' school-wide project of recycling also continued at Milwood this month. So far, the YIA participants have recycled hundreds of pounds of paper. The project is becoming a consistent part of their program each week.

Teachers have commented that YIA's weekly homework sessions have resulted in more completed assignments. Further, it is showing that the students overall grades are improving!


The Youth In Action students kept very busy throughout January. Service Learning peeked this month when the students participated in Kalamazoo’s Martin Luther King Day March. They joined hundreds of others to show their support by taking part in the walk around downtown Kalamazoo. They were by far the youngest people at the event and received special attention from the City Council. That same day, the students also visited Park Place Assisted Living. They mingled with the residents and even helped them in getting around the center.

The students remained committed to their school-wide paper recycling project and have made an enormous impact while promoting recycling!

The group also began a cycle of yoga programming in January and the students are looking forward to learning new yoga moves in the coming weeks.

Prevention Work’s representatives continued their lessons with the students. They spoke about resisting peer pressure and drugs. The Kalamazoo Jeter’s Leaders also attended the sessions as mentors. The Jeter’s Leaders later helped facilitate a discussion based around their experiences with peer pressure and gave advice on how to avoid tough situations. Weekly homework sessions have met YIA’s Academic Assistance goals. These sessions have resulted in more completed assignments and an improvement in overall grades.

Students and staff have also been working on social emotional learning and leadership development. The group worked extensively on empathy, communication and healthy risk taking.

Throughout the month, the staff was able to show their support for the female YIA members who play on the Milwood Girls Basketball team. They attended all of the home games to cheer them on.


The biggest highlight of December was being part of the Turn 2 Holiday Express at Kalamazoo’s Air Zoo. As they arrived, the students were excited to see their hosts, the Kalamazoo Jeter’s Leaders. They rode many aerial rides and enjoyed a never-ending, buffet-style dinner. At the end, they met up with the other Kalamazoo Signature Program participants and were surprised by a visit from Derek Jeter. On their way out, each YIA student was able to personally meet and shake hands with Derek while receiving a gift bag filled with goodies.

The program continues the Academic Assistance initiative on Thursdays. The group focuses on completing homework assignments and building relationships with teachers. Members of the National Honor Society, who offer extra help, often join the participants.

Actions Committees were also prevalent throughout December. These committees help to move the entire group forward by providing leadership opportunities and times to learn more about each other in small-group work sessions.

Service Learning is another important part of YIA’s curriculum. The students have maintained the ongoing, school-wide recycling program where at least 300 pounds of paper has been recycled so far. To build Healthy Lifestyles, the program is focusing on making positive choices. Our partnership with Prevention Works brought presentations and workshops to the students about choices including resisting alcohol and drugs.

The Kalamazoo Jeter’s Leaders joined the students in December. On one occasion, the Jeter’s Leaders took advantage of the unseasonably nice weather by creating teambuilding activities outside. They also created a balancing obstacle course. The Leaders took on the roles of coaches by helping the students figure out the best strategy to complete the task. Back indoors, each student was given an open piece of plastic pipe for an object to slide through. The goal of the activity was to pass the item, usually a golf ball or penny, from person to person without letting it hit the ground. The students were very successful and the Jeter’s Leaders provided guidance and support in helping them complete this task.


In November, the students of Youth In Action made positive steps towards higher levels of personal leadership, academic improvement and community service. Students are starting to recognize similar lessons that they learned when they were in Turn 2's Proud To Be Me at Washington Writer's Academy. The YIA staff has expanded on these earlier lessons to apply to the new stage of the students' lives. Similarly, YIA students are recognizing that Derek's 10 Life Lessons can be interpreted and used in different ways, and are now applying them to their lives in new situations.

The students are enjoying the new activities that Youth In Action has to offer. Over the course of the month, the American Red Cross taught the group how to perform CPR and First Aid. YIA also welcomed Vincent Riccardi who helped the students learn to juggle and taught the group important lessons on focus and concentration. The students also started Adventure Education. They have begun to utilize a climbing gym, where they work on teamwork and building self-confidence. Both the Academic Assistance and the community service recycling project have continued in November.

Finally, the Kalamazoo Jeter's Leaders visited the YIA students in November and had a number of teambuilding games for them. It was a great way for the Leaders and the YIA students to get to know one another. The Leaders will continue to mentor at YIA at least once per month for the rest of the program year.


Youth in Action is off to a great start! In October, the group of middle school students began to get to know each other better and begin to explore how to best work together in a group. A focus of the program this month is Social Emotional Learning Competency, or "Self-Management." Students learn to regulate their emotions to handle stress, control impulses, and persevere by overcoming obstacles. They set and monitor their progress toward personal and academic goals and learn to express their emotions appropriately.

Currently, YIA is walking/jogging about one mile per week. The students are enjoying time outside in the great Michigan weather. YIA also started an on-going in-school service project. The project consists of managing paper recycling for participating teachers. Recycling will continue throughout the program year.

Academic assistance has been a great addition to the program. One day a week the focus is on excelling in the classroom. Students have already begun to bring up their grades. The program is hoping to bolster the academic component by having volunteer students from the local National Honor Society work with the YIA students. Derek's 10 Life Lessons have also made their way into academic activities. The children have set academic goals for the subjects that they have the most difficulty with.

2010-11 Youth in Action Program Highlights »
2008-09 Youth in Action Program Highlights »

Since its launch in 1996, the Turn 2 Foundation has awarded more than $23 million to create and support signature programs that motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and "Turn 2" healthy lifestyles. Learn more »

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