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CAPWN program aims to guide teens toward goals


A local program which teaches teens life skills and tries to make them feel a part of the community is gearing up for another year of fun and learning.

Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska's Teen Outreach Program follows the teens enrolled in this program through high school.

"We help their own growth and develop their goals for the future," said Brenda Dickinson facilitator for TOP.

The outcome of this programs is generally reduced teen pregnancy and drop out rates.

"It does have some stuff in the sessions about sexuality and taking a look at that and seeing what their thoughts are," Dickinson said. "Abstinence is the best, but if not how are you gonna protect yourself?"

CAPWN is able to host this group with funds from a Personal Responsibility Education Program grant which is funded through the state and the Department of health and Human Services to CAPWN youth programs. Target populations for this grant are African Americans and those who are currently wards of the state, but anyone can benefit from this education.

Kids from every economic group are welcome, Dickinson said.

"Everybody would benefit from it," she added.

This year CAPWN is planning for an enrollment of 10 to 15 students. Six of them will be returning from last year.

"It'll follow them clear through high school," Dickinson said.

The program attempts to follow the same group of kids, so the age is bumped up every year, to assist these student with life skills up to young adulthood.

Earlier this summer the kids from last year's TOP group hosted a yard sale to raise money for supplies for youth groups and snacks. They raised around $150 and received quite a bit of community support setting up the sale.

"It went really well," Dickinson said.

Giving the students a connection to those living around them is a major goal for this group.

"In part of the curriculum it links the kids to their community," Dickinson said. "It links the kids to resources in their community. They take a look at the whole community and where they fit. Whether it be a school, a church, a youth group, we try to connect them with their community so they have a sense of being part of their community."

Another facet of this is a community service project that the youth put together each year.

"This helps them volunteer in the community and have some ownership in the community," Dickinson said.

The learning portion of this program teaches goal setting. The students find out what they need to be doing to reach their goals and how to be successful in the future.

"We look at family systems and what that looks like for them," Dickinson said. "And what they could maybe do to be more beneficial in their family."

The teens in this program also learn about relationships, friendships and romances. She thinks the most important thing the kids learn about are goal setting and relationships.

"I think they have a lot more pressure today than we used to have," Dickinson said.

The office administered a stress test on some of the students, and Dickinson said that 85 percent of them reported a high stress level. Because of this, those in TOPS also learn stress relief skills and relaxation techniques. Kids receive pressure from school, parents and friends, Dickinson said.

"Especially in a small community," she said. "Either you're in or you're not."

Dickinson said that she has encountered kids who've been the victims of cyber bullying, so she encourages the group keep their private lives off of Facebook.

Learning about healthy relationships, control issues, boundaries and personal rights, are also mentioned during sessions.

"We talk about control issues, when someone's being controlling," Dickinson said. "We talk about their personal rights, their boundaries, how to set their boundaries and how to maintain their boundaries."

The group might use role play to hash out different ways to handle uncomfortable situations, Dickinson said. She also tells the kids that's its ok to be on one's own.

"We talk about too, It's ok not to have a boyfriend or girlfriend," Dickinson said. "You don't need to have one all the time."

Dickinson hopes that this huge skill set she attempts to impart will form her students into healthy, productive adults.

"Respect is huge on the list too," Dickinson said. "For themselves and for other people."

Teenagers can be hard to reach, but her group is usually open minded, Dickinson said.

"They're receptive, but you've got to keep their hands busy because they're very energetic," Dickinson said. "So we do lots of arts and crafts during lessons and stuff and take breaks."

This group forms lasting relationships over the course of the school year.

"The group gets bonded, and it almost becomes like extended family," Dickinson said. "They're really close."

Dickinson loves working with the kids and is looking forward to a new year.

"It's exciting," she said. "My thing is youth."

Those at CAPWN try to make this group a fun experience.

The office is having a pizza party September 6 from 5p.m. to 7 p.m. for parents and kids to fill them in on what's going on with the program.

This curriculum used by CAPWN in the TOP program is considered values neutral, which means that the administrators provide factual information but don't impose any one values system on the kids. Leaders try to let the students do most of the talking, but keep the conversations moving in a positive direction, Dickinson said.

Transportation is only provided at this time for those coming from Chappell and Lodgepole. Dickinson said she works with quite a few kids from Deuel county.

The programs is still accepting students for participation at this time.

CAPWN is a community based organization that serves those who're not able to meet their own needs including low-income families and youth. It was founded in 1965 and serves more than 9,000 people.


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