Walking through the halls of this particular elementary school, it wasn’t uncommon to see Justin* sitting outside the classroom he’d just been put out of for one negative behavior or another. Just starting out – in second grade – with so much ahead of him, this boy was labeled as a “Behavior Student”, an unfortunate descriptor that can begin early on and follow a child through their school years. A label that can spell failure.
Enter All In For Youth. Justin’s teachers quickly referred him to the program and although resistant, he began to attend the local Boys & Girls Club once or twice a week. He had difficulty following rules and participating in activities, making it a challenge to build relationships with staff or the other kids.
The Club staff helped Justin learn about the tools and coping mechanisms that could help him focus and join the other kids and activities in a positive way. He began to identify his triggers and become able to ask for what he needed in the moment. “Fidgets”, small tactile devices designed to soothe agitation and alleviate challenges associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and broad spectrum Autism, quickly proved effective in helping Justin refocus his attention.
Gradually, Justin began to gain confidence. The Club staff started a reward chart for him and he beamed at the idea he was able to demonstrate behavior that earned him more opportunities to participate. He became motivated to be helpful, make friends and get involved in Club chores. He began to attend the Club more frequently.
Spring break programming is critical to ensuring the positive strides made can continue uninterrupted. Justin took advantage and the Club staff began to notice a demonstrable change. From an underachieving, troubled child who often had to be removed from participation, Justin emerged as a positive, helpful and welcoming member of the Club. Often offering to help staff prepare snacks and welcoming new kids to the Club, sharing his knowledge of Club rules and activities, Justin is now a fully involved and positive member.
What transpired at the Club translates now into other aspects of Justin’s life. His teachers report a marked change in Justin as he now is able to make friends and participate in class in a positive and constructive way. His grades continue to improve and he’s rarely seen in the halls during class.
All In For Youth has become a life-altering part of children’s lives. Justin continues to prove that with a little extra care, attention, and support, he doesn’t have to live in the shadow of a label. The investment this community has made is changing children’s lives. It’s subtle, it takes time, and every child is worth it.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the youth.