Carmel Youth Assistance Program Needs Our Help
As many supporters of the Carmel Youth Assistance Program (CYAP) are aware, the fourth annual Carmel Gala: Design Bright Futures was set to take place Saturday, April 25, at the Ritz Charles. Due to the COVID-19 safety protocols put into place, the gala was canceled by its organizers.
Although the fundraiser has been canceled, the fundraising efforts to support CYAP’s programs continues. And as the needs of Carmel’s at-risk youth and their families continues to rise during these trying times, so do the efforts made by CYAP staff and its volunteers to meet those needs.
But CYAP can’t do it alone and without the community’s help. CYAP needs donations and volunteers in order to meet the immediate needs of at-risk Carmel Clay students throughout this period of crisis. Additionally, without the funding from the gala, CYAP will need to rely on the generosity of companies and individuals to donate money and time to ensure that its programs, such as the Carmel Summer Meals Program, are fully funded this summer.
What Is the Carmel Youth Assistance Program?
CYAP was formed in the fall of 2015 to help strengthen youth and families through community involvement. CYAP works in collaboration with the Carmel Clay School District, City of Carmel and the Hamilton County Superior Court and provides crucial support to Carmel kids and families in need with programs such as Carmel Summer Meals.
Educating the community about the need for CYAP is just as great in Carmel as it is anywhere else in Indiana and remains a top priority for CYAP board President Dr. Bob Youkilis, his board members and staff. As the city’s population grows, the need for CYAP services grows with it.
Currently, there are more children who need CYAP mentors than there are mentors, so the need for available and willing people is real and pressing.
Youkilis has been an integral part of CYAP’s mentor program’s development and emphasized the importance of reaching kids who are in need long before they reach a point that they are endangering themselves and/or others and end up in the juvenile court system.
“We probably have 12 or 13 active mentors now,” Youkilis shared. “We really need to double the number of mentors that we have now and would love to build that up to 30 [mentors]. We have so many success stories with the pairings that we have, and many of them go longer than the one-year commitment that is initially requested.”
A Call to Action on Behalf of Carmel’s At-Risk Youth
CYAP continues to partner with Carmel Clay Schools while the student body is learning from their homes to meet the students’ emotional, educational and financial needs as much as possible.
Maggie Figge, CYAP early intervention advocate, explained that CYAP is working to fast-track their processes that under “normal” circumstances would take a couple of weeks.
“Since this [crisis] began, we have been really heavily focused on just helping the schools by being a good partner to them,” Figge stated. “We are frontloading the schools and helping the schools’ counselors and social workers by providing them with resources that we have. We are still taking referrals and doing intakes—obviously over the phone. We are doing all this because I don’t think families can wait a few weeks now for resources.”
CYAP Mentors Are Getting Creative With Their Mentees
“We have recommended and encouraged the mentors to not have their face-to-face meetings during this time, but we’ve encouraged them to use FaceTime or to make calls or Skype, use Google Hangouts or whatever they can possibly do—electronically—and make sure that they’re still touching base every week,” Figge shared. “We are putting together a list on ways to virtually connect with their mentees. I saw that Netflix is promoting a party channel where you watch a show or movie with someone and then chat about it afterwards. Mentors and mentees are setting up virtual games to play one another.”
A new spin on book clubs, Figge mentioned that one of their mentors and mentees is reading a book and then discussing it over the phone once a week.
“People who are interested in becoming a mentor can still do so,” Figge emphasized. “We can still do our whole process: background checks and the orientation. We’re just doing it [all] virtually and sending them the PowerPoints, talking over the phone or joining on a Skype call and things like that when going through the process.”
Please Consider Donating to CYAP
Carmel Clay Schools held a “Food Pickup” on March 18 for approximately 600 of its students who are food insecure. This number is of particular concern for Figge as they have never had 600 students sign up for the Carmel Summer Meals Program in past years, but she is anticipating that they will see their numbers double as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’re anticipating the numbers of students who sign up for Summer Meals will skyrocket this summer,” Figge said. “In anticipation of layoffs and people getting work hours cut, the needs of our families are going to hit them probably more long term than most. If our numbers double from previous years, our budget will obviously double, and in the absence of what would’ve been raised at the gala, if we don’t get donations—food or monetary—we may have to cut the [Summer Meals] off at a certain number and not be able to assist everyone who signs up. Our intention has always been to never have to cut it off, and I’m hopeful we don’t have to this summer.”
For a complete list of resources available to CCS students and family, visit ccs.k12.in.us. For more information about CYAP and to donate or volunteer, please visit youthassistance.org/carmel.