Diakon Youth Services A Lutheran Family & Community Ministry

Diakon Youth Services

Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries

Diakon Youth Services Center Point Day Treatment Program finalist in non-profit innovation awards

Lancaster, Pa. (Friday February 28, 2014)
Jason Brode, assistant administrator of Diakon Youth Services, left, and Jeremias Garcia, director of the Center Point program, accepted the finalist award at the awards breakfast in Lancaster.
Jeremias Garcia, second from left, and Jason Brode, third from left, with officials and sponsors of the non-profit innovation award.

The vocational training component of Diakon Youth Services' Center Point Day Program today was recognized as a finalist in the program innovation category in the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal's annual Non-Profit Innovation Awards.

Based at the Diakon Wilderness Center near Boiling Springs, Pa., the Center Point Day Program serves as an alternative to residential placement of youths who have been adjudicated dependent or delinquent by county children and youth services or juvenile probation departments. Referred youths need behavioral and educational intervention in a community-based setting, which means they take part in center-based activities on weekdays but return home in the evening. The goal of the program, which currently serves youths from Adams, Perry, Cumberland, and Franklin counties but is open to referrals from other regional counties, is for each student to graduate successfully as a productive and law-abiding member of the community.

A project of the Salvation Army received the overall award in the category.

"While we did not gain the top award, it was significant for us to be recognized as a finalist for the innovation award," said Mark Pile, Diakon president/CEO. "Competition in this category was significant, with 11 major regional organizations competing for the top honor. Again, we are honored to have reached the finalist designation this important category."

The Diakon Wilderness Center's Flight Program received the top innovation award in the competition two years ago.

In 2012, Diakon Wilderness Center staff members developed an innovative vocational training component called the Career & Technical Training Project. While the center has historically offered various job-training initiatives, the new vocational training component was designed to expand and enhance significantly the levels and types of vocational training offered to youths served by Center Point. Evidence of the focus was affiliation with the Pennsylvania Academic & Career Technical/Training (PACTT) Alliance, a statewide group of youth-service providers focused on providing society’s “most at-risk youths with relevant, rigorous and inspiring education that prepares them for viable careers.”

The initiative focuses on three vocational areas:

  • Culinary skills, with efforts coordinated with the professional food service provider at the Diakon Wilderness Center, Morrison Dining.
  • Auto mechanics.
  • Horticulture, coordinated through the on-site Diakon Wilderness Greenhouse but involving external partners as well, including a local Diakon senior living community and a professional landscaper, Brickman Landscaping.

According to the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Recidivism Report, one in five, or 20%, of youths released from state juvenile corrections committed another crime within two years of their 2007 case closure. A key factor in this issue is the very high (estimated to be 25 to 40%) unemployment rate among ex-offenders. In fact, research shows that youths who are employed are less likely to commit a crime or re-offend than those who do not; moreover, ex-offenders who have jobs and develop stable bonds within that situation have much lower recidivism rates.

The purpose of the training project is to increase the ability of youths served by the Center Point program to secure gainful employment by helping them to attain vocational, industry-recognized training provided within a credentialed setting. Project emphases include occupational skills, workplace behaviors, leadership and time management. Based on the research, a secondary goal is to reduce recidivism among participants by improving their employability through credentialing and educational interventions.

Because schooling remains a key to job placements and growth, the Center Point program provides basic skills instruction, remedial education as necessary, and study-skills training. Further, it works within educational systems to secure vocational-placement opportunities for younger students and to assure either high-school graduation or GED success for older youths. The program's external relationships are designed to provide a range of internship possibilities, as well as to offer optional post-placement support to youths through other Diakon Youth Services programs. Further, program staff members counsel participants on college financial aid, take them as appropriate to visit technical schools, local community and four-year colleges, and provide assistance in completing college or trade-school applications.

The vocational-training initiative has generated significant results so far, among them:

  • The program curriculum addresses all 27 competencies approved by the Pennsylvania career alliance; contact has been established with the Workforce Investment Board.
  • Students meet with the program’s career/academic advisor to ensure they are on track and have job-related portfolios completed by the time they graduate. If they are discharged before graduation, portfolios are sent to their county representative for completion.
  • Vocational certification is offered through several outside sources including OSHA and Servsafe, providing students with at least seven weeks of training.
  • The program is offering the Valvoline Lube Certificate within the automotive component.
  • Training and educational partnerships have been established with Brickman Landscaping, Morrison Senior Living, Volvo CE, YWCA, and the Salvation Army. Specific internships in the horticulture/landscaping and culinary professions are available through Brickman and Morrison, respectively.
  • The Diakon Wilderness Greenhouse has been “reborn” as part of the vocational initiative. The greenhouse is a fully functioning facility that is “green” not only because it produces plants, but because of its award-winning environmental design that makes it part of the wilderness center’s wastewater-treatment system. While the greenhouse has been in existence for more than a decade, it had not been fully used the last several years because of the closure of the residential program on the campus. With the Center Point initiative, it has been “reborn” and now emphasizes not only the vocational aspect of horticultural, but also business skills because youths sell flowers and bedding plants to consumers and to regional landscapers, interacting with customers and understanding the dynamics of running a successful business.
  • In relation to the greenhouse, students also have raised vegetables in conjunction with residents at Cumberland Crossings, a Diakon senior living community in Carlisle, with an emphasis on sustainable living, intergenerational activities, and community service. In addition, bonds were forged between the youths and the senior living residents with whom they worked in the gardens at Cumberland Crossings, illustrating in another way for the youths the benefits of community engagement, positive social relationships, and volunteerism.

The nomination noted that, from August 2012 through July of 2013, data showed that:

  • Ten students obtained ServSafe.
  • Four students obtained OSHA-5 certification
  • Following affiliation with PACTT, ten students either maintained or were offered and accepted employment upon discharge from the Center Point Day Program.
  • 61% completed OSHA/Servsafe certification
  • 73% earned their GED
  • 58 % found employment
  • 73% completed their portfolio
  • 100% had no new legal-related charges

"Society benefits greatly when young people who historically have 'taken' from their communities through interactions with the legal or child-welfare systems are taught how to give back through achieving gainful employment, coupled with the benefits of having received vocational training or higher education," says Corey Carothers, executive director of Diakon Youth Services.

"Two project aspects stand out: The students with whom we work often do not perform well in the traditional classroom but thrive when exposed to learning in which they are interested and that they perceive as affecting their future. In such cases, they become just as capable and interested in learning as any 'mainstream' students. Moreover, many businesses are highly interested in sharing skills and resources to support success in a young person who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to succeed. In this program, their interest is indeed making a difference.

For further information, please contact:
William Swanger, M.A., APR
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications
Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries
(717) 795-0308
E-mail: swangerb@diakon.org

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Diakon Youth Services
571 Mountain Road, P.O. Box 10, Boiling Springs, PA 17007-0010
Phone: (717) 960-6700 | Fax: (717) 258-9408
E-mail: brodej@diakon.org | Home: www.diakon.org/youth

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