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

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