YMCA of East Tennessee

Teen Trekkers

The youth of Union County suffer from a myriad of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as a result of poverty, parent incarceration, and substance abuse. The Union County Juvenile Judge approximates that 10% of all middle and high school students are in the juvenile court system. The YMCA of East Tennessee began the Teen Trekkers program in 2017, to work within the Union County High School and Union County Alternative Center to reach at-risk high school students. Our program uses incentive-based outdoor experiences as a conduit for relationship building and development of socio-emotional skills, and as a way to help teens develop resilience to ACEs. Our Teen Trekkers program is currently very small with a single staff person serving approximately 55 students annually. Initial results of our efforts have been encouragingly effective. The program has demonstrated lower recidivism and higher graduation rates for those we serve, but with over 800 high school students in Union County, however, the need is enormous. If awarded grant funding, we will be able to hire additional staff, beginning with a mentor for the young women in our program. We will reach out to build partnerships within the University of Tennessee, Tennessee’s Work-Based Learning Center, Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling, and others. Phase II funding will ensure program growth and community outreach, help us leverage future support from state and local resources, and launch our sustainable model.