Reducing Violence Among Youth
As the school year begins, many youth will be negatively impacted by bullying and violence. To address this problem, LSSI launched its Youth WORKS (Wellness, Opportunity, and Resources for Key Services) program two years ago, with the goal of reducing violence among youth in Ogle and Lee counties. Since then, Youth WORKS has expanded its impact in the communities it serves, and recently launched programs in Whiteside and Carrol Counties.
"One of our biggest successes is that we're growing," said Kelsey Kant, Youth WORKS Prevention Specialist. "Schools are getting more involved. They've started to look to us for violence prevention."
Youth WORKS programs target community engagement, youth involvement, wellness, family functioning, skills development/education, goal setting, linkage, and safety. Kant says that they work toward these goals by visiting schools and teaching curriculums about violence, facilitating parent forums, attending community meetings, and more.
"I recently taught a violence prevention course," said Kant. "Afterwards, a student wrote me that her self-esteem and relationships had improved when she applied what we'd taught. Hearing the appreciation from the kids means the most to me."
A culminating project at the end of the 2018-19 school year was the creation of "Buddy Benches" at Amboy Central Elementary School. Created by students involved with Youth WORKS, the special benches on the school playground encourages building friendships, and combats loneliness and bullying.