Daily Point of Light # 3081 Nov 25, 2005

Daily Point of Light Award for
Newton Thomas

Newton Thomas is one of five winners of a special judging of the Daily Point of Light Award that seeks to recognize organizations and volunteers who are making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and families and meeting the critical communities needs through their efforts. Marking National Family Volunteer Day (Novmebr 19, 2005) and National Family Week (November 20-26, 2005), these awards honor and celebrate individuals, families, organizations, and volunteer efforts that strengthen the bonds between neighbors and build more connected communities where families can thrive.

Learn more about how volunteering strengthens families and transforms neighborhoods.

Newton Thomas has brought together divergent segments of communities in seven states to achieve a common goal of rehabilitating troubled youth. Thomas has made a significant contribution, connecting thousands of people to help over 20,000 adjudicated children meet responsibilities, obtain employable skills, increase self-confidence, and further their education. Newton has served as a board member for Associated Marine Institutes (AMI) for 16 years and is currently Chairman.

AMI is a nonprofit organization founded in 1969 dedicated to helping delinquent youth through community-based rehabilitation programs. The goal of the 57 schools in seven states is provide structure and discipline for at-risk kids, giving them the tools that will help them to succeed in life. Today, there are over 55 community boards with 750 board members, and 1500 staff members. Together, they tap into their combined strengths and resources to help each AMI School in their community.

These boards have representation from various segments of the community: Law enforcement, judges, community leaders, and legislators. Thomas works to bring these various segments of the population together. The programs at AMI draw together people who would never meet one another if it were not for their love of community. There is nothing in it for them except the knowledge that they are helping misguided kids to be successful and enriching their community.

Because these passionate people are spread from Illinois to Florida, Thomas developed the Connect Initiative. The Connect Initiative began with a yearlong strategic planning process, Thomas spearheaded a process that began with a survey to find out what the obstacles and the opportunities were that people at every level faced. He determined that communication was a major hurdle and the communication process needed to be streamlined in order for the group to be more effective. Thus the Connect Initiative was born.

One year later, there is a monthly newsletter for all board members and staff that highlights best practices, resources, issues and stories that will connect people from the school level, through the community level, state level to a national one. Each helping to circle back to the children they help. As a result, there are now monthly steering team meetings that get critical information flowing from the corporate headquarters to the schools and back again.

As a result, although the national average for re-arrest among juveniles is at 59% only an average of 28% of AMI’s kids are re-arrested, making AMI a national leader for rehabilitating adjudicated kids.

Thomas’s efforts started 16 years ago and his last 2 years as Chairman have really allowed him to make his mark and put policies and procedure into place that will be followed for years in the future. He has been traveling the country to work with all 795 School Boards and politicians to ensure the safety in communities throughout the country.