Española – Con Alma’s Northern New Mexico Health Grant Group has awarded $20,000 to the Española YMCA Teen Center in support of student achievement and to address risky behaviors.
Los Alamos Family YMCA Executive Director Linda Daly said NNMHGG’s award signifies a commitment to improving health outcomes for youth in northern New Mexico.
“Multi-agency partnering within communities is proving to be one of the most effective means of improving educational outcomes for youth and thus positively affect their health outcomes,” Daly said. “The skill building classes we offer such as science, cooking and carpentry, address numerous 21st Century learning goals as well, such as active listening, communication, data analysis, technology and advanced literacy. These have been our goals since opening five years ago.”
In 2011, the Teen Center served 521 youth (60 percent male and 40 percent female) primarily in 8th through 10th grade. To date, the Center has directly intervened and helped 33 youth graduate who were on the verge of dropping out.
In 2011, staff helped 113 kids improved their grade through tutoring. The Center also has helped numerous youth to obtain their GEDs.
Shannon Martinez, a Center tutor, remembers one girl who had a 3-month-old baby who was ordered by the Court to study for her GED at the teen center.
The girl resisted the mandate by being withdrawn but over time, with friendly coaching that it was in her best interest, she began completing study guides and taking work home.
“She disappeared for a long time,” Martinez said, “but she turned up one year later having passed the GED test. She had a friend in tow, too, who also had a baby. She brought her friend in for help with the GED … .”
The Center is open noon to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday and is available to all area teenagers. It has a recreational wing, classroom section and computer center.
Staff members use mentoring to build supportive relationships with youth. They also use skill building classes to engage youth, and programming and discussions to address teen pregnancy, substance abuse, alcoholism, and mental health issues.
Con Alma’s award is about 10 percent of the Teen Center’s 2013 budget of $215,000. The Foundation is interested in addressing health disparities and access to health services.
The Y partners in the community to connect youth to services. Staff have referred youth to the Department of Health’s El Centro Clinic.
When youth indicate the desires to stop smoking, staff call the nurse and connect the youth to make the appointment. Staff also assist youth in filling out a mental health referral for Presbyterian Medical Services, and uses a written referral system to Team Builders Counseling Services, which is a family counseling service provider.
Staff also have a verbal referral system to Casa de Corazon/Easter Seals program, which is intensive outpatient therapy that includes behavioral therapy and will follow the student through the classroom process.
The Center receives referrals as well. As was the case with the girl Martinez tutored, the First Judicial Juvenile Justice Court refers youths to the Center for tutoring services and for life skills training classes.
The Y serves teens referred from Rio Arriba County Juvenile Drug Court in Narcotics Anonymous meetings and life skill classes, and the local Juvenile Community Corrections program also refers students.
The Center is fiscally also supported by the City of Espanola ($45K), United Way of Northern New Mexico ($30K), and Rio Arriba County ($15K.)
Serving more than 500 teens in a year, the cost is about $413/youth. The city contributes in-kind support and utilities and has provided funds from special events, but is not able to carry the entire fiscal amount.
This year Rio Arriba County began supporting the Center. Foundation and donor support in the amount of $80,000-$110,000 must be generated each year to address these needs.