Planning is underway for our next Forward S.T.E.P.S. graduation that will happen on August 29th here at Second Harvest. If you have never attended one, please put it on your calendar, you could be moved to tears. We have eight families that are currently participating in the Velocity training portion of this total family experience. During the graduation, these adults will be describing their “future story” as part of the outcome of this engagement. Last year we had thirteen family “leaders” who earned raises and four who became new first-time home owners as part of their hard work and perseverance. There are about fifty people who are attending the weekly evening meeting and meals. We have a strong Youth Enrichment program that engages the families’ children of all ages (0-18), who are a dynamic part of this work. The kids have taken a trip to Ball State recently to get a first-hand look at a major university and engage with some of the faculty. This experience is meaningful for the kids as they continue to consider, discuss and plan their “future story”.
If all we have ever been able to experience as a child is to live in the tyranny of the moment and those moments are dominated by trauma, we may not be able to see past today or even consider the future relevant. Think of it as waking up every day in the “emergency room” of life as a normal activity. Daily questions could be – Will I have a bed to sleep in tonight? Will the electricity be on when we get home? Will there be anything to eat tonight? Will I witness any violence inside or outside my house again tonight? Will I witness more addiction in my family or in the neighborhood? With questions like these or others looming in a child’s head there may be a connection as to why they struggle concentrating in school, struggle relating to a system not designed to work with these challenges or think for a moment about what they could be when they grow up. Lack of a “future story” can keep someone from dreaming, thinking or working toward anything more than what is in front of them every day. Schools do an amazing job with what they’ve been given to work with and my hat is off to the social workers, but it takes the whole family’s engagement along with the community to fully leverage the opportunities with these kids.
It makes no difference whether the adults in the family are part of our Activation, Velocity or Momentum training, the whole family can engage because the Youth Enrichment program is offered all year. Having a number of highly motivated AmeriCorps volunteers to assist with our kids is a true blessing. Kids are able to experience age-appropriate topics that tap into their creative juices with an outlet for expression. This year we have started three clubs as well, the STEAM Club, Reading Club and Spanish Club. We have a young man who is now in college earning a four year degree. Currently someone is in JROTC in high school, another is having success in track and field and learning to code. One has been selected to travel to Europe and visit eleven countries next summer because they excel in the high school band. Other successes are in the making as the younger ones are seeing some great role models that are just a few years older.
This initiative is currently in Delaware County, but we are now looking at the opportunities for expansion of this impactful work in other counties we serve as well. Forward S.T.E.P.S. brings a proven game-changer for motivated families who want to make the decisions to have a brighter “future story”.
Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies, programs and 29 schools provide food assistance and relationship building to more than 65,000 low-income people facing daily instability in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.