Organization Name: Kennebec Valley Community Action Program (KVCAP)

Program Name: Community Initiatives — South End Teen Center

Program Contact: RYAN KNEELAND, Coordinator
Email:     Phone: (207) 873-5621

UWMM has funded this program for 12 years.

Amount Requested: $22000
Is this an increase from what your program received for the current funding cycle? 

Twenty-five word summary of this program’s purpose:

A safe, enriching, after-school environment supporting youth to stay in school; prepare for the workforce; learn life-skills; and engage with the community.

How your program is uniquely important to the community:

The SETC is nestled in the heart of the South End of Waterville, a culturally rich region that fell on hard times over the past several decades and continues to suffer high poverty and other social ills. The SETC was developed in response to a community forum in 2000, when South End residents complained that there was nothing positive in the neighborhood for youth to do.

Many of the SETC’s youth report feeling the weight of being labeled a “South End” teen the moment they leave the neighborhood, feeling looked down upon, unrecognized, and under-valued. Despite the heaviness of challenges, the SETC serves as a consistent haven for many of the neighborhood’s teens, where all teens are welcome and treated fairly.

The SETC meets teen needs across a number of domains. Starting with basic needs such as food/clothing/hygiene – snacks and meals are provided every day and we have a garden and a teaching kitchen. The SETC serves as a Summer Lunch program site in collaboration with the school, serving meals to children of all ages. We also have access to donated shoes, clothing and hygiene products.

A key goal is supporting school success by rewarding school attendance and performance through the Teen Stars incentive program; providing homework assistance; access to computers/tablets; and encouraging youth to join extracurricular school activities. If a teen stops attending school, we assist in getting them re-enrolled in school or an alternative educational program. In addition, we help teens explore and apply to post-secondary opportunities. The college volunteers and work-study students who mentor teens expose them to role models that promote college – many of their families have no experience with college and it is not seen as a priority.

Too many of the teens we serve have suffered various forms of trauma and are mistrustful in relationships, particularly with adults. Staff work with teens on the basic building blocks for developing healthy relationships. Another focus is building self-esteem, reinforcing positive choices and being a sounding board for teens as they navigate the ups and downs of adolescence. Teens are also provided ample opportunity to engage in community service projects through Teen Stars, helping to forge a stronger connection to their community.

These are the pathways through which teens are able to reach their potential, where hopelessness and disconnect transform into youth who develop a sense of belonging and become positively connected to their community.

Program Updates

Since last report (or in past two years):

  • Since last report to UWMM (or in past two years, if first time applying):

Since our last report to UWMM (18-Month Check-In, 3/2018), there have been a few changes. A $5,000 Office of Justice grant through the Alfond Youth Center was secured, which will permit building and equipment upgrades as well as a more focused mentoring component for a dozen teens. A new SETC Community Closet was built for teens to acquire new and gently used clothing and hygiene items as needed.  Other changes include the fact that Community Initiatives, which is the department that the SETC is under, has been merged with the Energy and Housing Department overseen by Monica Grady, Program Director. The Community Initiatives Manager Cheryl Leonard left in the fall and Amanda Neagle is the Operations Manager who will directly supervise Ryan Kneeland, the Teen Center Coordinator.

Expected in the coming year:

  • Expected in coming year:

For the upcoming year, programmatic changes will included the aforementioned OJP mentoring grant implementation, building updates (e.g. new kitchen counter-top, cubbies for teen backpacks and coats, outdoor grill, etc.). We are aiming to create the SETC Youth Committee to further empower teens with the direction of the SETC. There is a proposed honor roll incentive program to further enhance rewards for teens who achieve honor roll at school each quarter. KVCAP’s Development Director is working on grants to secure a passenger van for the SETC. Parent Nights for families involved with the OJP grant are being explored as well.  We plan to hire a youth worker for the summer months to make up for the loss of our Thomas College work-study students and the need for chaperones/drivers for our Summer Blast field trips.

Outcome your program most contributes to:
Education: All children grow up in a stable environment—safe, healthy, and ready to learn.

How program contributes:
Provides a direct service in early learning and youth success/education areas, Increases access/reduces barriers to direct services, Advocates for early learning, youth success, and/or education, Collaborates with other programs/services in early learning, youth success, and/or education

Define your year: July 1 – June 30

How much did we do? 60 (Total number served)

How well did we do it?

Performance measure: Percent of eligible youth who participate in the school or community-based out-of-school program on a regular basis
“Regular basis” is “Regular basis” is defined as eligible youth who visit the SETC at minimum 40 times annually.
Most recent year’s data: 61%
Previous year’s data: 60%

What was the difference made?

Performance measure: Percent of high school students who are on-track to graduate high school within four years
Most recent year’s data: 95%
Previous year’s data: 92%

Action Plan

Objectives for current year:

How much did we serve?

62 registered members at 12 months, 73 at 18 months, estimate of 122 at 24 months

Goal 74

As temperatures rise, so do visits at the SETC. Many new members have joined recently after winter and we are hoping momentum continues and we can reach 70 members per year!

How well did we do it? (Measure 1)

Percentage of members that attended at least once per week for a quarter.

44/73 members at 18 months (60%), estimate at  24 months 55%

Goal 44%

Attendance records were set during this reporting period, and the teens that come do so with great regularity. We are on target to have over half of our enrolled teens reach the goal of averaging at least one visit per week per quarter.

How well did we do it? (Measure 2)

Percentage of members who enrolled in the Teen Stars program and earned points.  66/73 members at 18 months (90%) members, estimate at 24 months 85%

Goal 44%

Teens have been overwhelmingly involved at the SETC and have been earning many points for their positive choices, growth, acts of kindness, completing homework, getting A’s and B’s each month, skill building, contributions with Teen Tasks (washing dishes, sweeping and mopping, taking out the trash, learning cooking skills, and many other life skills). Teens may collectively eclipse 300 hours of community service as well!

Is anyone better off? (Measure 1)

Percentage of youth who stayed in school

actual at 18 months 59/62 (95.1%), estimate at 24 months 95%

Goal 98%

The SETC welcomes all of the neighborhood’s teens warmly and equally. As such, there are many teens who have considerable odds to overcome in their lives which can make school difficult to complete. The SETC works with families and social workers and refers many of its teens to alternative school options (e.g. the Threshold home-schooling program and the alternative high school). With the Waterville High School’s graduation rate for 2018 being 82.92%, advancement to the next grade (or graduation) at this rate or higher from the South End is a triumph.

Is anyone better off? (Measure 2)

Percentage of youth who learned to give back to the community through community service.

Actual 40/62 members at 18 months (64.5%), estimate at 24 months 60%

Goal 37%

By the end of the reporting period, teens may collectively eclipse 300 hours of community service!

Objectives and results from last year:How much did we serve?

Actual: 62 members

Goal (at 24 months): 74

Overall attendance increased by 43.7% from 2,115 to 3,297 visits compared to the previous year. A new position was created in order to keep up with customer demand.

How well did we do it? (Measure 1)

Percentage of members that attended at least once per week for a quarter. Actual: 39/62 members, 62.9%

Goal 44%

A significant number of registered teens visited with great frequency. The percentage of teens who attend an average of weekly for the entire school year has steadily risen since 2013. Frequency of attendance is important because those are the teens we are most likely to impact.

How well did we do it? (Measure 2)

Percentage of members who enrolled in the Teen Stars program and earned points.

Actual: 55/62 members, 88.7%

Goal: 44%

55/62 members earned points for working with staff on homework, getting A’s or B’s each month, participating in school clubs/sports, gaining employment, attending Teen Center meetings, completing community service, “caught being good,” and other observed social/emotional breakthroughs and participation.

Is anyone better off? (Measure 1)

Percentage of youth who stayed in school.

Actual: 59/62, 95.1%

Goal: 98%

59/62 registered members stayed in school during the 2017-18 academic school year at the time of this measure. Among the 3 students who withdrew from school, their attendance total for the year at the Teen Center was 9 visits. Considering that all teens who walk through the door are encouraged to register during their first visit without discrimination, this was a very good result.

Is anyone better off? (Measure 2)

Percentage of youth who learned to give back to the community through community service.

Actual: 40/62 members, 64.5%

Goal 37%

Over 50 community service opportunities were tracked and 123 hours of community service was completed by 40 out of 62 registered teens.

Did you meet your goals? Were you successful in attaining your objectives?

Yes! Attendance records were smashed. Teens who came did so regularly. We had a record 22 Teen Stars by summer 2018  and over 30 achieved the goal into 2019 (accomplished by completing at least 5 hours of community service and averaging attending the teen center at least once per week for the year). Activities and growth moments have been documented over 4,800 times. Despite living in the most impoverished section of Waterville, our teens have far exceeded the Waterville High School graduation rate of 82.92% by advancing to the next grade or graduating. This may miss our target rate of 95%, which may have been a bit unrealistic, but we will be close! By giving back to the community with a projected 300 hours of community service, the teens of the SETC are more connected to the community and its people, and prove to Waterville that the youth of the South End are capable and deserving of anything this community can afford, and more.

Success Stories

Customer Story #1

I went to South End Teen Center for about a year, maybe a tad longer. It was during a time where home life wasn’t the best. I was constantly having the Crisis line called on me, most of the time when I was doing nothing wrong. It wasn’t a safe place to be, mentally. Not only this, but I grew up on the Southside of Waterville. Anyone will tell you that this is no place for kids. People sell drugs at the run-down parks and the streets aren’t the best for a child to be playing alone in, so I stayed inside my toxic home until I heard about the Teen Center from a friend and I checked it out. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to afford to go, as most times growing up on south side meant nothing was for you, but I was allowed in for free. I walked in and the moment I entered I felt welcome. Kids said hello to me and the current director at the time offered me a snack and a tour. I signed up immediately because for the first time I felt like I belonged. Living in that area, someone like myself suffered from hunger anxiety and the horrid effects of poverty, which made the very notion of feeling like you safely belong feel impossible, yet the Teen Center made it possible.

It didn’t cure me mentally, but it DID break that crisis cycle. For a year and a half I didn’t go to mental Institutions because I could go play the Wii with my friends at the teen center. I could play basketball with non-jocks. Because most people at the teen center were like me, it was easy to get along. There were snacks for people who were hungry and events for people who hung out during the summer. There were computers for homework and fun and staff that were there to support you and hang out. Staff like Stephen and Ryan took us on tours to colleges like Husson. I think there should be a picture of me zonked out on a ride there.

This sounds similar to the after school YMCA program, but the YMCA is not the same crowd for a kid like I was. Whenever I went I could see the same kind of kids, probably struggling at home, but they had smiles on their faces and DOUBLE the events to go to, thanks to the work of Steve. I learned about this because Steve helped teach YETE, Youth Empowerment Through Employment. Steve showed interest, not just in a down town teen center, but in getting kids employed too, which was the next step for me as a troubled kid. Steve and Ryan Kneeland helped me get my first jobs and apply to college, which was pivotal because I am a first Generation college student. My family was pretty poor so college just never really seemed like an option. This is something important to note, they both lead the teen center BUT ALSO went out into their community to help more. They helped students like me, that didn’t think college was possible, get into the workplace and college. They helped me build my resume, fill out college and job applications, and way more. This is not the kind of help you find in school or at the YMCA.

Mind you, these things are free for kids. No money. This isn’t a gentrifying program only accessible for some, its meant for the poor kids and it is lead by outstanding members of society. You’ll find the most genuine people on the ground floor of the teen center helping those kids. I remember that, one time I had an abrupt interview and Ryan, without even thinking about it, gave me interview attire and let me print of my resume at his office. I don’t know if I could be here without them. My grades in high school skyrocketed to high honors and they definitely played a role in that. The Teen Center offers tutors straight from Waterville’s prestigious Colby College and believe me when I say that helped TONS. My own exclusive Colby tutor? For FREE? Who could pass that up?

My experience didn’t end there, though. Thanks to the confidence and resources given to me by the Teen Center staff, I volunteered at RE_Books, a book store in Waterville. I worked at the library and moved on to get many more jobs. I found myself enthralled in helping my community. The Teen Center has many different things it does for the community. Free book stations were put up around town (this is actually a Rotary project, but SETC manages one of the stations, MP), free bike swap day, where they repair bikes, trips to different places a Southside kid couldn’t possibly afford, and many other public services are offered at the Teen Center.

This idea of public service became instilled in me, which is why as an adult going to college I try to find time to help those in poverty the same way the Teen Center helped me. I have created a program at Kennebec Valley Community College that helps those in poverty/those who attend the Teen Center reach out and get into college. This wasn’t ever something I thought I would do in my life. I went from someone who was selfish due to the nature of poverty, to a guy full of empathy and hope for those around me. In a way, the Teen Center gave me a voice to advocate for myself and you can see that exact same confidence in others that attend it.  I couldn’t be writing with this level of understanding or vocabulary if it wasn’t for the Teen Center, YETE, and the directors and staff along the way. The hopeless kid who lived on Southside is long gone in my rearview mirror thanks to them.

Customer Story #2

Back in 2011, I had moved to Waterville, Maine to finish high school. For me, it hadn’t been anything new as I had lived here previously. Although it wasn’t anything new, I was definitely nervous to start back-up at a school where it had been a few years since I hadn’t seen some of the people I had gone to school with previously in a-while.  It wasn’t too long before a life-long friend had introduced me to the South End Teen Center where I met the likes of Steve and Brandi and many others that had went to the South End Teen Center. I was kind of nervous on the first day because I was sort of shy in my younger days. I was like, am I going to be comfortable? Am I going to like this?

Going to the South End Teen Center when I didn’t have sports practices or games made me feel like I was at home once I had got adjusted to it. Steve and Brandi would always make sure that I signed in then did my homework and would also do continuous grade check-ups to make sure I was doing great in school. Once I got towards my junior/senior year I knew the time was coming where I had to start looking at schools and I couldn’t be more appreciative of the help and support that I had gotten from Steve and Brandi with the college search. They had always pushed me to go harder and to get things done even when I didn’t want to do it. They told me that college wasn’t for everybody but it definitely was something to pursue if I was interested which I was for sure. SETC was able to help me more on being able to pick a school that would best fit me.

SETC in the grand scheme of things taught me to also use my resources and that college was going to be hard. Now that I think of it, SETC helped me get out of my shell which is explained more below.  With that I was able to graduate high school with honors in 2014 and eventually move my studies over to Thomas College. I was already on the track to success I felt because I was a first-generation college student and my parents were always living paycheck to paycheck. This is something I wanted to do better in them because I always saw them struggling including my dad to be able to find a job. Going off this, I had lived in the South End up until the end of junior year. I always would have the mentality that living in the South End meant that my dad was poor.

At Thomas, I was able to see tutors for help and ask professors for help when struggling with a homework assignment or essay. I got involved in many things on campus including playing baseball, being an orientation leader(3-years), having multiple jobs, volunteering to be the school’s mascot, being a Resident Assistant, getting a part-time job as an employee of the college, and most importantly having a network. With all my hard-work and using my resources, I went debt four years in my undergraduate degree in Sport Management.

In May, I will be getting my Master’s Degree in Business Administration in Thomas’s Accelerated program and speaking on behalf of the graduate division at the 125th commencement of the school. I am very appreciative of my good friend introducing me to the South End Teen Center because there was a lot of opportunity to grow in many areas that I lacked in. If I were to look back my childhood, I have grown tremendously. From being bullied to not being bullied, I was eventually able to stand up for myself which I was scared of doing beforehand. SETC and its people/my relationships helped me grow and get to the next level of life. That’s being an adult and going to college for me.

Previous Year Actual Income and Expenditures

Government Funding UWMM Funding Other UWs Funding Fees/Dues Funding Other Sources Funding Total Income
65777 22000 0 0 12203 99980

Total Actual Expenditures: $98417

Current Year Budgeted Income and Expenditures

Government Funding UWMM Funding Other UWs Funding Fees/Dues Funding Other Sources Funding Total Income
92665 22000 0 0 17000 131665

Total Budgeted Expenditures: $131665

Anything remarkable about your program’s budget:

The budget for FY 2019/2020 (as well as for the current year) is significantly larger than for the Previous Year (ie, 2017/18) for a couple of reasons:

    1. The SETC Coordinator’s hours have increased over the past couple of years as program demands have increased. In addition, the wage ranges for all staff at KVCAP have increased each of the last three years in preparation for the increase in minimum wage.
    2. The federal government funding that KVCAP receives for being a State designated community action agency is called Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funding.  Local agencies have discretion to allocate these funds toward programs that help individuals, families and communities alleviate the conditions of poverty and increase economic security.  KVCAP allocates its funding toward several programs and initiatives throughout Kennebec and Somerset counties. Program managers, receptionists, and other supportive staff for some of the programs are charged in part to CSBG.  A couple of years ago, in assessing the time that these support staff were spending on the various CSBG programs, it was determined that we were undercharging the SETC program and overcharging some of the other CSBG funded programs.  Staff salary allocations were re-adjusted within the CSBG program account. Therefore, more salary expenses are now charged to the SETC program – at the same time, the CSBG funds allocated to the program were also increased.

What else you’d like reviewers to know:

In the past when measuring numbers served, we included all teens who came through the door during the year even if only visiting infrequently. With this application, we will be reporting on youth as being served once they enroll (i.e. return completed membership forms). This means our data will appear that we’re serving fewer teens but we are only adjusting the term “member.”

For the 18-month “Check-In” we discovered under-reporting members. Members should have been duplicated between school years but weren’t.

With performance Measure #18, Percent of high school students who are on-track to graduate high school within four years, is different language compared to how we have reported in the past. We report on all all who have successfully moved on to the next grade or graduated. We will continue with this metric. One of the selected measure focuses on SETC attendance. The more often teens attend, the more likely they can be positively impacted. Despite being limited to just 2 performance outcomes with this new application, the SETC gathers other substantial other data as well. This includes monthly sit-downs with teens to discuss and track grades, attendance and giving them incentives for achieving A’s and B’s (our teens collectively maintain a solid B average and good attendance rates with chronic absenteeism below the state average). Teens are also encouraged to attempt and complete extra-curricular activities after school. Leadership behaviors and gains in social/emotional growth are tracked and rewarded, as are “Teen Tasks” by the hundreds. Anonymous donors fund the J&J scholarships for the American Heritage Tour as well as driver’s education, with 4 recipients already in 2019. Many of our teens have practiced job skills, have created resumes, have practiced interviews, and have achieved employment. Teen center staff then help to support teens be successful in their jobs.

Without the commitment of UWMM funds, the operations of the teen center would be severely limited and would require either reducing days of the week that we are open during the school year and/or potentially closing the center for the summer.  Additionally, less funding could severely impact funding for staff and safe and effective staff-to-youth ratios. We sincerely appreciate your consideration as volunteers, and the very difficult decisions you all must make. KVCAP and the South End Teen Center is dedicated to maximizing these dollars with quality programming for the betterment of the South End, Waterville, and its future.


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