LONDON, Kentucky (July 16, 2015) — If Dale Suttles has his way, a program in Laurel County, Ky., focused on giving at-risk youth the skills to build a productive life, will go statewide. The year-round, after-school and summer program, called Youth Support Center (YSC) at Sunrise Children’s Services, serves as an alternative to juvenile detention for youth identified by the Laurel County Fiscal Court. It is the only program of its kind in the state.
“Without this intervention, these teens could end up in detention or continue the cycle of living in poverty without completing their high school degree or having any job training,” said Suttles, chief executive officer, Sunrise Children’s Services. “We don’t want them to fall through the cracks. Here, they learn they can change their lives for the better.”
The success stories are inspiring, Suttles said. Consider the story of Susan, one of our recent graduates. Her father died of an overdose when she was a baby and her mother manufactured and used methamphetamine. Often homeless, Susan rarely attended school. At age seven, Susan’s mother was incarcerated and she went to live with her grandmother. While living with her grandmother, she attended school daily and found that she loved learning.
When her grandmother died, Susan was returned to live with her mother. It was difficult to attend school because they often moved from place to place, but Susan always managed to maintain good grades. Sadly, in Susan’s senior year, her mother was incarcerated again, leaving Susan homeless. She was then placed with an uncle but didn’t want to stay there because of his drug abuse. Eventually, she found it difficult to get to school and was sent to court and placed at the Youth Support Center (YSC) on charges of Habitual Truancy. At the YSC, she relished the consistency and structure of the program, and worked with her Toyota Tutor to recover missing high school credits, earning her high school diploma. She is now enrolled for classes at Somerset Community College this fall.
“They want to find a path to success, but face enormous challenges in their home lives,” said Mary Schild, program director, Sunrise Children’s Services. “Things children shouldn’t have to face: drugs, abuse, homelessness, truancy, among other issues. We exist to provide a safe and encouraging place where they can lay the foundation for a brighter future.”
Schilds said many of the youth attending the YSC come from families where parents are currently abusing drugs, are incarcerated due to drug charges or deceased due to drug abuse. The teens often live with grandparents, aunts or distant relatives and have little or no supervision. Ninety percent of the families we serve are on some form of public assistance and have not completed their educations. Our youth grow up without goals and education is not a priority. With the help of the Toyota grant, we are able to provide the help needed to give them the confidence and motivation to get better grades and complete their education. YSC assesses the teens’ educational needs and works in tandem with the Laurel County School District to develop a plan to help each youth.
The multi-faceted Toyota Tutors program provides tutoring for high school credit recovery, GED preparation, test-taking skills and many other learning experiences. The program expanded this year to include art therapy. YSC also teaches teens new skills and behaviors through drug-and-alcohol treatment programs, anger-management classes, individual, group and family counseling, and independent-living training. The skills can be used to find a job or attend college or trade school.
The intensive therapeutic interventions are designed by the client, their family and professionals in an effort to keep the teen from being removed from their home. “With the challenges they face, it’s important they learn coping skills to help eliminate stressors in their home, school and community,” Schild said. “All kids deserve to sleep in a safe place with both eyes closed, have three good meals a day, and to find something they’re passionate about to build a career and life around.”
Suttles said Sunrise Children’s Services, which offers a variety of services for youth throughout the state, is working to pair businesses and mentors with the teens in the Laurel County program. He hopes this program will spread to other Kentucky counties to help make a generational change. Toyota answered the call with a $17,500 investment in the program.
“This program gives teens some of the most basic needs and support that many people take for granted,” said Rick Hesterberg, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. “Their stories are ones of perseverance and determination, and it’s clear that the support and care Sunrise Children’s Services provides, along with tutoring, therapeutic recreation, and nutritional meals, make a difference and show these young people they can improve their lives. At Toyota, our passion is getting people to where they need to go, on the road and in life. This program is making a huge impact on our future generation, their families and the community.”
Sunrise Children’s Services is the final stop on a three-day road trip Toyota team members took across Kentucky to visit partner organizations. The team members had the opportunity to see the difference the organizations are making in the lives of individuals and communities.
About Sunrise Children’s Services
Sunrise Children's Services , Inc. is a historic 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Since 1869, this nonprofit ministry has continuously affiliated with Kentucky Baptists. Today, the Commonwealth of Kentucky licenses Sunrise as a Behavioral Health Services Organization (BHSO) which provides foster care, residential, therapeutic treatment and community-based services statewide. The Joint Commission has given Gold Seal accreditations to Sunrise, and the respected BHSO maintains other professional licenses and accreditations needed for comprehensive therapeutic child care. For more information, visit sunrise.org.
About Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc.
Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world's top automaker and creator of the Prius and the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through our Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Over the past 50 years, we’ve built more than 25 million cars and trucks in North America (10 million+ in Kentucky), where we operate 14 manufacturing plants (10 in the U.S.) and directly employ more than 42,000 people (more than 33,000 in the U.S., with 7,500 employed at our Georgetown, Kentucky plant). Our 1,800 North American dealerships (1,500 in the U.S.) sold more than 2.67 million cars and trucks (more than 2.35 million in the U.S.) in 2014 – and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years are still on the road today. For more information about Toyota, visit www.toyotanewsroom.com.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc.