It’s a Fulton County program that can steer troubled and disadvantaged teens and young adults toward successful lives. But the directors say it’s so little-known it needs a place in the spotlight.
Called Youth Employments Supports (YES), and implemented through Triangular Processing, the program can assist those teens and young adults from ages 16-24 with obtaining a GED, finding part-time work, and finding direction toward their life goals. And in doing so, it offers the support and encouragement they may lack.
Funded by a federal grant distributed through the Fulton County Commissioners, YES helps high school students who have been through the juvenile justice system, live in or are aging out of foster care or live in a lower socioeconomic level. Many are referred to YES through the courts or through their schools.
“They’re the ones who are kind of teetering on dropping out of school,” said Teresa Robinson Haas, a community employment director with Triangular Processing. “We work with them to make sure that they do stay in school. The main goal is to make sure they graduate.”
The same help is offered to adults 18-24 who have been through the criminal justice system, dropped out of school or find themselves struggling with menial jobs. YES works with other county help agencies to move participants along a path to success.
Haas said the program can assist with earning a GED and finding gainful employment, and can offer financial assistance with licensure fees and classes that can get participants certified in CPR, OSHA, and STNA. It also can refer participants to mental therapy agencies.
“We focus on obtaining small goals to get to their big goal,” she said.
Qualifications for adults include an income below poverty level, a history with the criminal justice system or the need for a GED. Once qualified, the participants must take a four-week, 80-hour series of life skill classes that cover parenting, anger management, interview and resume skills, and food preparation.
YES may also issue gas vouchers to ensure viable transportation to and from classes and work sites.
Once participants complete the YES program, they are placed in a state-required follow-up program for one year.
Currently, three students and seven adults are in the program, with another nine people pending. Haas said the goal is to serve 65 people by the end of July, when the federal grant comes up for renewal.
“We have had a couple of success stories,” she said. “We think it’s a great program that will benefit the community. I don’t think a lot of people know about the assistance we can provide to them.”
Begun in Fulton County in 2013, YES was managed by other help agencies until finding a home at Triangular Processing last August.
Marty Friess, who co-directs the program, said YES offers “a world of possibilities,” yet many qualified county residents aren’t aware it exists. He said it’s satisfying to act as a mentor to those trying to improve their lives.
“We try to empower them with hope, we try to empower them with purpose,” he said. “We’ll get them a skill that is marketable and in demand. They need to see a face of hope and encouragement – someone who believes in them, absolutely.”
Friess said the courage participants demonstrate to overcome their situations is impressive, as is their support for one another.
“Those are the kinds of relationships that are significant. They know there’s somebody out there who cares,” he said.
Triangular Processing Executive Director Kathy Shaw added, “Any time we assist individuals in becoming self-supporting and working toward their dreams it’s always a benefit for everyone in Fulton County.”
Haas said as YES participants accomplish the small goals laid before them they see their true potential.
“If you see your life is going somewhere you don’t want it to go, this can turn you around,” she said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.