Youth Options

Daily Point of Light # 1145 Jun 24, 1998

Youth Options is a teen volunteer program of the Youth Services/Boys and Girls Club Fox Valley agency located in Appleton, WI. Youth Services/Boys and Girls Club Fox Valley is a 22-year-old agency that helps young people, ages 12-18, reconnect with their families, schools and neighborhoods through early prevention and intervention-based programming. Its Youth Options program, which now consists of three main components, was formed in 1991 when a small group of ten teenagers expressed interest in forming a peer-to-peer telephone hotline , called Tele-Teen Helpline, where pressing issues and problems could be discussed with youth, in confidence and without judgment.

Several of the teens who started this core group had experienced their own problems, and having received help through the Youth Services agency, wanted to deliver help to others. These teens went through extensive training on communication and peer-facilitating techniques, as well as a thorough education on issues likely to be addressed: alcohol and drug use, diversity training, dating relationships, teen pregnancy, suicide and depression, etc. This training still takes place for all new volunteers.

Today, as when the hotline started, each volunteer devotes weekend and evening time amounting to more than 40 hours per participant to learning more about themselves, their peers, and their stake in providing solutions to urgent social problems. They engage in several fund-raising tasks to raise money for training and material expenses. Over 200 young volunteers have successfully completed the training program and devoted an average of 14 months each toward making Tele-Teen a great success.

In 1993, some members of the helpline and other volunteers from area schools formed the Teen Drama Troupe, the second component of Youth Options, in order to take their prevention and other hotline messages on the road. This group of 30 high-energy teens performs for elementary, middle and high schools, churches, special community events and at conferences, reaching an average audience of 3,000 young people yearly. Teen Drama Troupe volunteers have perfected performances addressing teen issues, such as drinking and driving, date rape, and the impact of alcoholism on families. The performances are interactive and informative. At their conclusion, a specially trained facilitator involves audiences in lively discussions about the topic addressed. Following Teen Drama Troupe performances, many teen viewers inquire about how they can get involved.

The most recent addition to Youth Options is a television show for, and about teens, called FUTURES. It is scripted, acted and produced by about 35 teens, several of whom are also active in Tele-Teen and the Drama Troupe. FUTURES began in 1996, as a way to explore universal teen topics with the broader community — friendships and relationships, family stresses, the quest for popularity and independence. Thanks to the generous assistance of the University of Wisconsin – Fox Valley Media Department and their local ABC affiliate, WBAY TV 2, thirteen episodes and re-runs are aired annually, reaching more than 500,000 area households throughout Northeast Wisconsin.