Good Beginnings in Franklin County believes that healthy development of all individuals and families is essential for continued personal and community growth and prosperity. This team works toward county-wide collaborative representation striving to offer several supportive networks. Currently there are approximately 50 collaborating agencies and individuals guided by a county assessment and a five-year comprehensive plan.
One program, TeamMates, was initiated in the fall of 2000 by Good Beginnings. The program pairs teacher-identified at-risk 5th – 12th grade students with adults who mentor them at least one hour per week. The program emphasizes building character and self-concept, reinforces basic skills and attitudes, and helps mentees set goals. When the program began, 45%of at-risk youth were on the middle/high school academic down list. Presently less than 5% of those youth are. Graduation rate has increased to 99 – 100%. Today TeamMates is board-driven with volunteers from all walks of like. Through fundraisers the program offers graduating students, successful in the program, scholarships to post-secondary institutions.
A family enrichment or parenting workshop is sponsored by the group. The elementary principal saw a need to lend support to families with young children. The workshops include a variety of skill and subject matter and are designed to make good parents even better.
A large county-wide event sponsored annually by Good Beginnings is the Health Fair. With attendance consistently 350-425, the goal is to promote healthy lifestyle choices and nutrition programs, and to increase knowledge of available services. Laboratory services and flu shots are available at reduced prices each year. Although many are referred to primary health providers for a number of reasons, this year two individuals were screened and referred with potentially life-threatening conditions.
In 2005, the team expanded the health fair concept to high school students focusing on teens’ health concerns and needs. Blood was drawn for cholesterol and blood sugar level screening. Educational stations included SAFE Center, focusing on date rape and family violence; UNK Human Performance Lab, highlighting body fat and continued fitness; UNL Extension discussing dietary guidelines and healthy snacking; Health surveys; Tobacco-Free Nebraska, and Personal Health Screening. Middle school and elementary health fairs are being planned as well.
A pilot project to offer an organized after-school program was such a success that in the 2005-06 school year, grant money was received to hire a program coordinator, furnish a meeting place, and offer a structured program to 3rd -6th grade students. Volunteers offer programs and activities, as well as tutoring and mentoring. Activities include healthy snacking, homework time and tutoring, physical activity/fitness and educational projects.
Other programs the group sponsors include: providing area high schools with “Baby, Think it Over”, Baby-sitting Clinics, “I’m in Charge” for latch-key children, Wellness 2003 – a health initiative to keep people moving and healthy, and bringing a mental health clinician to Franklin on a weekly basis.
In the future this volunteer group will be looking at intervention programs for youth and other community programs. If there is a concern or need, this group of volunteers is there to conquer it.