June 2009 ~ According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, approximately 26% of the Maricopa County, Arizona 12th graders surveyed in 2006 reported using a drug within the past month and approximately 11.7% of Maricopa County 8th graders, 18.6% of 10th graders, and 20.1% of 12th graders surveyed reported being drunk or high at school within the past year in 2006. In communities faced with such staggering realities, there is a dire need to present teens with other options.
That is why we at Americans Helping Americans are so pleased with the results of our recent effort to bring positive after-school activities to the young people of Maricopa County in Phoenix, Arizona. Americans Helping Americans® and our partners at the Chris-Town YMCA teamed up to provide children and teens at the Pine Ridge Apartments with a safe and enriching environment where they receive homework help, play soccer, basketball and other sports and are surrounded with positive after-school mentoring.
One of our favorite stories of our afterschool program participants is the following:
Jesse was not a popular child at Pine Ridge Apartments. He was teased and chosen last when teams were picked. He continued to come to the program every day despite how the other kids treated him. Recognizing that this behavior towards Jesse needed to stop and change for good, the Americans Helping Americans® partnering staff took a different tactic in helping Jesse. They began letting Jesse take on a leadership role with the teens, picking him to head activities and recognizing Jesse for good behavior. This change in approach had an important affect on the way the other kids viewed Jesse and they began to accept him. He is now one of the more popular kids in the program and the other kids recognize and respect his many talents. Through it all, Jesse has stayed positive and has been appreciative of the efforts of our staff. Had this program not been in place at community center of the Pine Ridge Apartments, Jesse may not have had this opportunity for personal growth and feelings of accomplishment.