Too Many Positive Coincidences: How a Church Reaches At-Risk Teens

Too Many Positive Coincidences: How a Church Reaches At-Risk Teens August 24, 2015

by The Rev. Pam Brokaw

Dreaming of a bright future can be more difficult in an economically depressed community – especially for its young people. However, for the city of Winlock, one church has found a way to plant seeds of hope that are truly taking root.

In this rural community in southwestern Washington, many teens had never held a job or even knew how to apply for one. Now, thanks to YouthFirst Winlock—a program led by Winlock United Methodist Church—many are employed, have graduated from high school and are heading to college.

UMC Education Article Youth First graduates 2015When the program launched in the fall of 2014 with fourteen students, the participants did not have the skills to complete an employment application. By the end of the year, all had gained work experience through internships, and local businesses would later hire eleven of the original fourteen.

YouthFirst Winlock is a partnership between Winlock United Methodist Church, a state nonprofit called Partners in Careers, local businesses and the school district. In addition to providing a meeting space, food and mentors, the church contributes funds provided by a bequest from a community member.

Winlock High School graduate Chelsea Arnett, now a graduate student at Washington State University, is the coordinator of YouthFirst Winlock. She said some of the students in the program have struggled to balance school responsibilities and caring for siblings. Some have experienced homelessness, lost parents, been affected by drugs or run away from home. According to Arnett, the program has been a constant source of support and hope that their lives can be different.

For Arnett, working in YouthFirst has reawakened her own faith. Before her involvement with the Winlock initiative, she would pray and wonder, “Who am I praying to and what if nobody is listening?” The program, she says, has had “too many positive coincidences not to believe a higher power is at work.”

Read the full story by Rev. Pam Brokaw…

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