Announcement, News

GreenLight Brings Nationally Acclaimed Youth Programs to Kansas City

Sep 14, 2020

Kansas City


Becoming A Man® and Working On Womanhood expand to Kansas City to support youth mental health in schools

Kansas City, Missouri – September 14, 2020 – After a comprehensive selection process in collaboration with local community leaders, GreenLight Fund Kansas City announces its first investment, Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man (BAM®) and Working on Womanhood (WOW). BAM and WOW are school-based group counseling and mentoring programs that work to improve the social-emotional and behavioral competencies of students in grades 7-12 who’ve been exposed to traumatic stressors and face social, behavioral, cognitive, or emotional challenges. In partnership with Hickman Mills School District, BAM and WOW counselors will serve more than 100 students at Smith-Hale Middle School and Ruskin High School in the upcoming school year, with plans to expand to eight schools across the metro area by 2025.

Mayor Quinton Lucas and his staff championed BAM and WOW’s expansion to Kansas City. “GreenLight’s first investment reflects Kansas City’s commitment to young Black and Brown students, and to empowering our children to resolve conflicts and develop into their full potential,” said Mayor Lucas. “BAM and WOW are proven, evidence-based models that provide youth safe spaces to share their challenges, find mentorship and access support, and I am glad to help launch these programs in our Hickman Mills School District.”

GreenLight launched its model locally in 2019, forming an inclusive Selection Advisory Council (SAC) made up of leaders from across the community to guide its five-step process, which seeks the most effective social innovations to address the needs that matter most to Kansas City residents facing barriers to prosperity. The result in this inaugural year was a focus on identifying programs that could counter the impact of violence and trauma young people have experienced in the community. After searching the nation for proven, innovative approaches, GreenLight worked with its local SAC and identified Chicago-based Youth Guidance’s BAM and WOW as leading evidence-based programs supporting the unique mental health needs of adolescents.

“We are incredibly proud to join forces with Mayor Lucas, the Hickman Mills C-1 School District, Greenlight Fund Kansas City, community stakeholders and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation to guide students toward social-emotional well-being and success in school and in life,” said Youth Guidance CEO, Michelle Adler Morrison. “We look forward to a strong and enduring partnership that expands pathways to success for young men and women of color.”

GreenLight Fund Kansas City Executive Director Sarah Haberberger shared her passion for the investment, “We heard directly from Kansas City youth that they are looking for safe spaces to share their feelings, know they are not alone, heal from trauma, find hope, and feel empowered – needs that have only grown because of our nations’ current health and economic crises, as well as our ongoing fight against anti-Black racism. BAM and WOW address those needs head on.” BAM and WOW were selected as the first investment in a portfolio of solutions; each year, GreenLight will lead a community-driven process to bring another proven solution to address gaps in services to families in Kansas City.

GreenLight is committed to the success of BAM and WOW as they launch in Kansas City by providing financial and on-the-ground support for the next four years. A local executive director for BAM and WOW will begin this fall and will hire and train counselors from the community to embed in Smith-Hale Middle School and Ruskin High School, while also building relationships with other school districts to reach more students. Expansion efforts are aided by a $500K grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, a grantmaker focused on reform efforts within and outside of U.S. school systems that improve educational opportunities and outcomes for all students.

Hickman Mills C-1 Schools Superintendent Yaw Obeng joined the district on July 1 after spending the last five years as superintendent of Burlington Public Schools in Vermont. Obeng has quickly established himself as an advocate for BAM and WOW and notes the need for partnership as schools work to serve students virtually in a global pandemic, “HMC-1 is looking forward to this important partnership with the GreenLight Fund and Youth Guidance. Through this partnership our students will have access to an added layer of support with thoroughly trained and highly skilled counselors to help with social, emotional and mental health needs.”

A Boston youth enrolled in BAM reflected on the impact of participating in the program virtually while schools were closed. “In the BAM group, we really get comfortable with each other and we all express our feelings to each other. A lot of times I get angry and take actions right off the bat without thinking about them. I like taking out my anger out at the field, you know, in the gym; that relieves my stress, and I couldn’t do that no more. I had to stay home because of the safety of my family. At the same time it drove me crazy, because I’m an active person. But BAM has taught me that if in the moment I’m feeling stressed, angry, etc., I can take that anger and turn it into positive anger expression. To take bad things and turn them into positive things.”