The Antlers American
TSET Awards Oklahoma Association of Youth Services up to $4.5 Million for Youth Character-Building Program
The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Board of Directors awarded the Oklahoma Association of Youth Services up to $4.5 million over four and a half years.
The grant, under the TSET Successful Futures Program, will fund a program to equip Oklahoma youth with the skills and tools needed to make healthy choices in an effort to lower the number of unhealthy adults in the future.
The Oklahoma Association of Youth Services (OAYS) is comprised of 38 nonprofit youth service agencies across the state. With TSET support, OAYS will launch the Heathy Kids/Healthy Communities program — a skill-building education course for youth in grades three through eight. Through in-school and after-school activities, the program will teach character development and life skills that can help young people succeed and make healthier life choices.
“We know that adverse childhood experiences are associated with higher rates of chronic health problems, mental illness and substance abuse,” said TSET Board Chair Marshall Snipes. “Programs like Healthy Kids/Healthy Communities can make a significant impact by equipping youth with the knowledge and skills to develop healthy habits and become healthy adults.”
Healthy Kids/ Healthy Communities will be based on the 40 Developmental Assets Framework, an evidence-based model that is widely used nationally for developing strong and health youth. Created by Search Institute, a national non-profit organization, the framework focuses on cultivating healthy relationships, opportunities and personal strengths.
Oklahoma ranks 42nd in children’s health and is among the highest-ranking states for adverse childhood experiences, which include abuse, poverty, mental health problems and domestic violence. One in five Oklahoma children live in poverty. However, research shows that intervention activities diminish risks associated with these challenges.
“The Oklahoma Association of Youth Services is excited about the impact our partnership with TSET through the Successful Futures grant provides to the children and youth served by our designated Youth Services Agencies across the state,” said Dr. Peter Messiah, executive director of OAYS. “We believe that when young people have the opportunity to learn positive decision and choice-making strategies, resistance skills, and resiliency, these competencies become incorporated throughout various aspects of their daily lives. Hence, they serve them well now and in the future.”
OAYS is the only statewide network of community-based youth agencies. In addition to individual requests, designated OAYS agencies receives referrals from courts, law enforcement, schools, state agencies and other community organizations. The program is expected to begin next summer and reach up to 200,000 youth in more than 40 counties across Oklahoma.
To learn more about TSET, visit Oklahoma.gov/TSET.