The Community Y Youth Outreach Program was founded in Marshalltown, Iowa in 1979. The mission of the program is to divert youth from the juvenile justice system. The Outreach Program serves 35 at-risk boys in the 6th through the 12th grades and referred from the Juvenile Court Services, schools, parents, and social services agencies. Several of the youth have been in the program from two to five years. The Outreach members excel and the program continues to make a difference in their lives, and in turn, they make a difference in their community.
The Outreach Program provides many opportunities for youth. They learn new skills, feel that they belong, and bond into the community. Healthy beliefs are taught and promoted and clear standards are set to lead to healthy behaviors among the members. In addition, the program recognizes clients’ accomplishments and continues to build their self-esteem.
The successes of the youth involved are many, although they volunteer for numerous projects. One of the most notable gifts of service is their work at the Iowa Veterans Home. Each Sunday, they escort wheel chair veterans to and from church. They initially offered their services when two programs were about to be eliminated due to lack of volunteers. The Outreach program participants also provide escorts for both bingo programs. Additionally, these youth sit with the veterans and help them play cards. Their dedication does not stop there. These youth also function as escorts for the Labor Day Picnic, 4th of July Picnic, Car Show, Motorcycle Rally, Flag Day, Root Beer Float socials, and many other events in the community.
The commitment of the Outreach Program to the community is also evident in the Eagle Eye Park Watch Program. This was established in 1997 and is a collaborative effort of the Outreach Program, Marshalltown Police Department DARE Officers, and Parks and Recreation. Annually DARE Officers train the youth on bike safety and witness observation for reports. This program promotes community ownership within the youth. They ride the bike path and patrol the parks from April through October to increase safety in the community. It empowers youth to take pride in their community and decrease incidents of vandalism and crime. It also fosters a good relationship between the youth and low enforcement officials.
Each year, the Outreach program has several community volunteers interacting with Outreach members. Besides the police officers, there are four missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, six International Exchange Students from Marshalltown Community College, area leaders, past Outreach members, and others. Members have the opportunity to bond with each other, the community and other adult role models.
The Outreach members learn and practice new skills, earn and receive recognition, and develop and practice leadership skills. They are contributing citizens that enrich the quality of life for the youth and veterans of their community.