The NorthWest Initiative (NWI) is a non-profit organization working to develop healthy communities in Lansing, Michigan. Through the Youth Engagement Program we teach youth how to discuss and handle topics that influence choices in their lives, as well as providing positive community service experiences and a variety of learning activities. We offer a number of programs including the Westside Youth Corps Program(summer program), Pre-Teen Program, homework help, family fun night(once a month), Young Parent Program, a children's gardening project at a local school, and Young Phoenix Project(Saturdays, males grades 6-9). We are also in the process of starting a peer mentoring program, matching at-risk 6-8 grade students(selected by their principals) with successful 11th and 12th grade students.
The neighborhoods we work in are rich with diversity; however, there are several neighborhoods within our territory that have been identified as very low income according to the 2000 census data. The neighborhoods we focus on for youth engagement programs have a high density of children of color and at-risk populations. We put our focus on working with at-risk youth in the middle school years(ages 11-14) because they are difficult time for most students because of peer pressure and hormones. It is especially a difficult time for youth who do not have a father figure at home or a successful role model. Most of our students that participate in our programs come from single parent, low-income households.
All of our Youth Engagement Programs are geared towards youth to make healthy choices, and how the impact of choices affect their daily lives, as well as providing leadership skills and training to help the youth understand the importance of "giving back to the community" (i.e. positive community service projects). The Westside youth Corps and the Young Phoenix Project are both service orientated programs that help to instill in our youth the importance of personal accountability, responsibility, and pride in a job well done. For the past two summers, "Westside Youth Corps" has engaged over one hundred individuals throughout the summer months in performing community service projects(i.e. cleaning up Potter Park Zoo, planting a garden at the MSU Student Organic Farms, and painting and landscaping the yard of an incapacitated senior), as well as, taking fun, educational field trips(for example: the local wastewater treatment plant,Urban Option, MSU Dairy Farm, and a camp on Lake Michigan).
Currently we need to replenish our stock of games and activities for the community center. We recently assembled a computer lab with four computers that we would like to buy educational software for. We also have access to a gym but right now need funds to purchase more basketballs, footballs, jump ropes, etc. I would also like to purchase more fun and educational board/card games to play. Often kids come in with little or no homework and it would be nice to have more educational games to play with them. There is a plethora of good games to buy from a website I found http://www.educationallearninggames.com. It would also be nice to have games to enrich our mentoring program. Games would help build the mentoring relationship and facilitate a stronger bond.