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Forging Responsible Youth serves a mission to educate, to motivate, and to inspire children of all ages to overcome their obstacles and to become happy and productive citizens.
Forging Responsible Youth was established in 1993 in Springfield, Ohio, and serves a mission to educate, motivate, and inspire children of all ages to overcome their obstacles and become happy and productive citizens.
In 2000, Forging launched the RAFT (Respect, Accept, Forgive, and Teach others), an after-school and summer mentoring program for at-risk students in Clark County. The RAFT program is designed to challenge at-risk students to improve school performance, to set personal goals, and to learn responsibility and respect for themselves and others. We work closely with local schools, the juvenile court, and other agencies to address each child's physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and economic needs.The RAFT program is based in a comfortable, Victorian home, located at 929 E. High St. This homelike setting allows us to complement, rather than to mimic the traditional classroom setting, where many of our students struggle.
Students referred to the RAFT program typically have behavioral, social, and academic challenges, resulting from circumstances such as, living in poverty, suffering abuse, illiteracy, having a parent who has been murdered, having a parent or sibling who is incarcerated, having a parent with a substance abuse problem, or having one or both parents absent from the home. Nearly all of them are below level in reading and math.
Students are met, each day, by a diverse group of trained, committed staff and adult volunteer role models. At RAFT, we maintain a ratio of 3:1 (student: mentor), which gives students the opportunity to receive one-on-one attention and assistance. The program staff and volunteers work to create an atmosphere of safety, success, and support and to foster a sense of normalcy and consistency in these children's lives.
In our program, each child receives individualized computer tutoring in math and reading (using SuccessMaker software) and help with their homework. The SuccessMaker software tracks and documents each student's progress, and lets the staff know where the student needs extra assistance. We collaborate with each teacher and/or school counselor for each participating child, on a monthly basis. This collaboration allows the child's progress at school to be closely monitored and teachers' input to be incorporated into the RAFT program. High school students also receive help with exploring career pathways and college scholarships. Next year, when our oldest students begin to apply to colleges, we will have the opportunity to help them write and submit applications. Presently, we have students from twelve different Springfield City Schools, three charter schools, two private schools, and one alternative school, and two County schools.
The students also participate in hands-on, character education sessions, designed to help them learn empathy, respect for themselves and others, responsibility, caring, and honesty. They learn basic life skills, such as anger/stress management, personal hygiene, and financial literacy. They also learn how to protect themselves from danger, and to make wise choices, so that they can achieve their goals in life. We work to help them understand that they have a VOICE and a CHOICE, when it comes to their futures, by providing them with community service and volunteer opportunities, as well as opportunities to be heard in the community. The RAFT kids are working to develop a student newsletter, a web page, and plan to host Kids Voices Out Loud, an evening of poetry, stories, music and art by local youth.
We also provide a warm, substantial snack, since that will be the last meal of the day for many of our students. The students and their families also receive food, clothing, shoes, school supplies, eyeglasses, and social service referrals; we help them schedule medical and dental appointments, when needed. We have also had the opportunity to take the children on the only vacations many of them have ever had.
RAFT is unlike any other program in our area. We provide an organic and connected way to learn, a way based relationships and trust, developed over time. Working with the children over a span of years, instead of months, like most programs, gives them an opportunity to be really known and understood and to participate in a program that is better prepared to change and grow with their needs. Forging Responsible Youth, with generous community support, actively works to break the cycle of dependency and to help our children develop to their fullest potential.
In June, 2006, Forging launched a "Summer RAFT" program, which operates 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the summer months. Social skills and team building are the focus during these months.
Each child receives breakfast and lunch. Positive social skills are taught to the children by interacting with the adult volunteers, staff and other students in basketball, hopscotch, foursquare, table games, videos and computer games. Life skills such as cooking are offered, as the children learn to bake and prepare meals in the kitchen.
Visits to the public library provide opportunities for the children to keep up their reading skills as well. The clothes closet will be available for those children in need.
The children also have the opportunity to earn a "Family Fun" week in the summer. The children earn this trip by turning in their homework and having good behavior at school and in the "RAFT" program. This week is full of horseback riding, picnics, swimming at Wyandot Lake and a visit to Cosi. Socially, this week really changes the children. For most of our children, poverty keeps them from experiencing a summer vacation and for the first time they can experience and understand what family really means as we share this week of fun together.
- liz hale
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