Mission, Vision, and Goals
The Youth Life Foundation of Richmond operates Learning Centers to develop leaders by making long-term investments in children from at-risk communities.
Our vision is to nurture the child, strengthen the family, and rebuild the community. We hope to replicate our Learning Center model in many Richmond communities.
We accomplish our mission though neighborhood-based after-school and summer programs that cultivate academic success, character development, computer training, and health and wellness in children. Additionally, we provide programs that strengthen the families in the communities where we serve.
The Learning Center programs are designed to produce excellence in every aspect of the children’s lives. One of the program’s primary goals centers on academic excellence and achieving specific academic goals for each student.
Character development, the second program goal, is emphasized alongside academics. The staff and volunteers utilize a nationwide curriculum called Character First! that gives the children an understanding of 49 character qualities. YLFR also utilizes the Judeo-Christian Bible as an optional part of the curriculum to provide further guidance in moral development. Parents are notified of this aspect of the character-building program and given the option upon registration of having their child participate. Children not involved in Biblical instruction participate in alternative lessons in character development.
The third goal of the Learning Center focuses on computer skills development in order to equip students for future careers. Most of the students neither own home computers nor have access to computers at public libraries. Volunteers provide children with computer training sessions to help them complete projects, prepare homework assignments, write papers, and facilitate other educational challenges.
The fourth goal, Health and Wellness instruction is also a key component of the Learning Center program. Healthy eating habits and physical activity are stressed. Nutritious snacks are provided on a daily basis and students participate in physical activity at least four days a week.
Tyree is a sixth grade African American boy. His mother is raising him in a low-income, single parent home. He is the middle child of three brothers, and has only met his father a couple of times. He knows that his father used drugs and drank often, and Tyree thinks it is better that his father is not part of his life. The lack of a strong father influence has been proven to contribute to crime and juvenile delinquency, deteriorating educational achievement, depression, substance abuse, and alienation among youth. Initially, Tyree was no exception to these facts, because he was often suspended from school and the Learning Center for his disruptive behavior. He struggled with anger and a lack of self-control and would throw tables and chairs when he became angry.
We recognized that Tyree was an intelligent child, but his angry behavior was a hindrance to his success at school and at the Learning Center. When asked about his future goals, he expressed a strong interest in music, particularly a desire to be a drummer. His love for music led the Learning Center staff to match him with a mentor who played the drums. His mentor began giving Tyree lessons every Saturday, if his behavior had been good for the week. Not only did his mentor provide great incentives for improved behavior, but he also became a wonderful role model and counselor for Tyree. After a year of Saturday lessons with his mentor, Tyree has become a skilled drummer with a strong interest in using his gifts for the church that he attends every Sunday.
The depth of Tyree's growth as a person was evident in the comments he made to his Learning Center teacher when returning from a Citikidz camp event. While other students were talking about friends they had made, and how much fun they had at camp, Tyree sat quietly in thought. He finally revealed what was on his mind when he told his teacher, "Mrs. Beth, I have decided, when I grow up, I am going to marry one wife and be a great father to all of my kids." This may seem like a trivial thought by a maturing young man; however, when 70% of African American babies in the U.S. are born out-of-wedlock and raised fatherless, and when there is not one child out of the 74 that currently reside in Delmont being raised in a two-parent home, we come to have more of an appreciation for the impact of his comment. When 60% of rapists, 72% of adolescent murderers, and 70% of long-term prison inmates come from fatherless homes (MD-based National Fatherhood Initiative), the decision that Tyree made that day can be considered anything but trivial.
The book of Proverbs tells us that “a child is known by his actions.” Seven-year-old Jerhmontey’s actions express his gentleness, humility and desire to serve others. He has worked hard to become a role model for his peers, but the journey has been difficult.
As a five-year-old, Jerhmontey was known for his violent temper and disrespect for authority. His aggressive behavior led to suspension from kindergarten. When he joined Youth Life’s Learning Center in Delmont Plaza, his actions continued to draw correction and discipline. But God had big plans for this frustrated little boy.
As one Youth Life teacher put it, “Kids spell love T-I-M-E.” Day in and day out Jerhmontey spent hours with adult teachers and mentors who believed in his future. Somewhere along the way, he began to change. Between moments of frustration and disrespect came laughter and confidence. As a first grader, he began to bring home awards for honor roll and good citizenship. And by the end of the school year, Jerhmontey was recognized with the highest honor at Glen Lea Elementary, the Spirit of the Lion.
The Youth Life Foundation of Richmond is re-writing the future for dozens of high-risk kids like Tyree and Jerhmontey. To the untrained eye, the Learning Centers may appear to offer “just” an after-school program. But if you look closer, you will see hundreds of mentors investing time and compassion into the lives of these young people. You will see characters being built on the foundation of God’s Word. Youth Life kids are exposed to a world of opportunity outside of their immediate communities. They are encouraged to dream, some for the first time in their young lives.