BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — The Spring Green Educational Foundation (SGEF) Youth Diversion Program has moved to Maumee.
The organization, which focuses on the mental and physical health and well-being of at-risk youth, opened its doors on Detroit Avenue in the former Ballroom Company building near the intersection of Detroit, River Road and Scott Street in Maumee.
Executive director Dawn Duhaime said that programming is still being conducted virtually, but she is hopeful that in-person classes will begin in the spring.
“Our fingers are crossed for that,” she said.
The Youth Diversion Program was previously located at the Monclova Community Center in Monclova Township. In late 2019, the organization moved to Maumee because more space was needed.
“We wanted to stay in the area and Maumee is kind of a hub – it’s close to a lot of the areas that we serve and it is easily accessible,” Duhaime said.
The Youth Diversion Program provides a 10-week structured curriculum for youths and parents. Meetings take place once a week for three hours to discuss a variety of topics, including tobacco, drug and alcohol use and the safe use of social media and other technology, and more.
Youths entering the program are between the ages of 12 and 18, and are either at risk or have committed a nonviolent offense. The children are often referred by law enforcement and school officials or by parents, who self-refer to the program. A major component of the program is providing the tools to build stronger family relationships and enhance key communication skills, said program director Amanda Bradley, who is also a police officer in Whitehouse.
“We are an educational program that works with parents and kids to give them new tools – that’s what we basically provide for parents and kids,” she said. “Teenagers can be frustrating at times and we help parents get things under control and get them to focus on families.”
Multiple community resources are used to help families, and approximately 12 to 15 kids who take part in the sessions come from throughout the Northwest Ohio region. Bradley said that the goal is to get kids to understand the thoughts that lead to an unhealthy outcome in order to replace those with healthier thoughts that lead to a better outcome. The common thread among those referred to the program is often disconnectedness and isolation.
“Kids feel disconnected either from their friends or their family, and so we are really giving them a place to come together to realize that everyone has problems, so they are not alone,” Bradley said. “They start connecting with each other and with the staff, and when they check in, we ask them how much family time have they had – either sitting down for a meal or taking a walk together – so they can reconnect with their families.”
Duhaime said that the program empowers parents and equips them with the tools needed to have a better relationship with their children.
“I don’t think we would be nearly as successful as we are if we didn’t have the ability to impact parents,” she said.
They also continue to help families, even those who have successfully completed the program.
“Our mantra is that we are your forever family,” she said. “We have parents and students who have come back much later to use us a resource, so this is not a one and done for us – this is an ongoing relationship.”
It costs $330 per family to participate in the diversion program and kids must also perform community service work as part of their participation. Scholarships are available and Maumee Churches United provides funding to support Maumee families in need.
The Youth Diversion Program was founded in 2012, with funding provided by the Spring Green Educational Foundation (SGEF), a nonprofit organization. Healing workshops are also offered to those taking part in the program, and later this year, a grief support group will also be offered.
In addition to diversion, the SGEF also supports anti-drug initiatives including the documentary films Chasing Hope and One, which address addiction.
The Spring Green Educational Foundation Youth Diversion Program is located at 2319 Detroit Ave. For information, please call executive director Dawn Duhaime at (419) 250-0810 or Amanda Bradley at (419) 460-1103 or visit www.springgreen.org.