A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Brighton Center’s special programming helps teens build leadership skills through community service

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune health reporter

Teens in Newport are building self-esteem and learning about community service through Brighton Center programming that provides consistent support for teens beginning in middle school through high school graduation. And it was programming that has continued through the pandemic.

Youth Leadership Development (YLD) is a foundational program that teens begin in middle school. One component of YLD is learning social-emotional skills and evidence-based, medically accurate health information. It transitions into Teen Coalition in high school. Embedded in the Teen Coalition is another program, Teens Linked to Care (TLC).

All the programs are interconnected and work as one to connect youth to the community.

Teens Linked to Care (TLC) was developed by the Center for Disease Control Foundation to focus on community-level needs. Brighton Center was one of three locations to pilot the program.

The program integrates prevention for substance use and sexual risk factors, then initiates change to combat this in the community. Teen Coalition members get exposure to leadership skills by serving as the Youth Advisory Board for TLC.

“It’s amazing to watch,” says Michelle Bullis, Youth Leadership Development Coordinator, as the teens come up with concepts and ideas — and do all the research, planning and implementation.

“The programs are about empowerment and building skills. We’re working with them on self-esteem, confidence, job and career readiness, and social-emotional skills.”

The other component of Teen Coalition focuses on advocacy and making change. Brighton Center works with the teens to identify what they care about.

“What do they see as issues in their community? What things are they going to be able to do to help support young people,” says Bullis.

This is where the Brighton Center has truly made advocacy a community collaboration. The Teen Coalition takes what they learned and institutes it through the Community Advisory Board, made up of parents, guardians, or stakeholders living in Newport.

Bullis says they focused on lifting up the parent and student voices. They wanted the board to be the voices of those living in the community, those invested in their youth. It is about getting parents and community members together to support the youth.

One program the teens hosted was Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper Suicide Prevention Training. “QPR training is a suicide risk assessment,” says Bullis. It provides information about what to do when you know someone is in crisis by using the QPR strategy.

Teens identified a need in learning about mental health and suicide risks. They brought in a trainer and opened the training to community members, residents, parents, and students.

“They felt empowered by having information as to what to do if they encountered a friend in crisis,” says Bullis.

The 24-hour hotline is the TLC number, 859-581-1111 which links directly to Brighton Center shelters. A youth in a crisis who calls is immediately connected with a professional at Homeward Bound Shelter and are given support and guidance.

When the pandemic hit, programming did not stop. The priority became checking in with their youth weekly. Staff made over 1,300 contacts with youth over two and a half months, mid-March to June. If unable to connect by phone, they texted, if that did not work, they tried Facebook messenger. There were a few teens they kept in contact the old-fashion way, writing letters.

They then transitioned the ‘pre-summer club’ to meeting virtually. Youth participated in many activities: playing Pictionary, scavenger hunts, or Oregon Trail. A movie night was complete with popcorn delivered to the teen’s homes.

“We were doing club, but we were also allowing them the chance to have a space to talk where they felt safe,” says Bullis. “They were able to talk about their fears and anxieties.”

Summer programming happened over June and July. Brighton Center held in-person Summer Club, their basic summer programming and continued to work with their partners.

“Our partners really rallied together to develop what Summer Club would look like,” says Bullis.

The partners dropped off materials ahead of time, then would video call in to talk with the youth.

“They are just so glad to have a space to come and feel connected to people who they know care about them,” Bullis says.

Because in-person Summer Club was limited, Bullis brought back the Youth Leadership Development home projects. Youth signed up for kits that were delivered to their homes. The kits included the core components of Summer Club, a fun icebreaker activity, a social-emotional skill-building activity, games, and at home service ideas.

As long as a fifth-grader or older student had signed up, enough items for siblings to participate in the activities were included in the kits.

“Brighton Center was one of the only nonprofits in the area that never shut down,” says Deana Sowders, Marketing & Communications Specialist. “There’s a need for places like Brighton Center to keep our doors open and offer programming for young people.”

Bullis and Sowders both emphasize the importance of youth programs. They want to ensure Brighton Center can continue to offer teens a safe place.

But Brighton Center offers a range of programs, in addition to community and youth services. They include a wide range of important community services — a food pantry, delivering food, early childhood programs, emergency services, family services, financial services, workforce and training, senior services, social enterprises, women’s recovery services, housing — and, of course, the Northern Kentucky Scholar House. To learn about them, click here. To donate, click here.

Maridith Yahl is the NKyTribune’s health reporter

Thanks to Report for America, with support from the Ground Truth Project, St. ELizabeth Healthcare, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Douglas G. Martin Foundation. You, too, can support this reporting and other NKyTribune reporting with a tax-deductible donation today. Help us continue to provide accurate, up-to-date local news and information you can depend on.

Click here to donate now!

Related Posts

Leave a Comment