Southern Utah outreach program focuses on the ‘why’ in teenage choices

Some of the youth involved with the TEAMRAW program, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of TEAMRAW, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — For youth struggling with issues from drug or alcohol use to low grades in school, having a mentor to guide and listen to them can help change their lives. That’s what TEAMRAW aims to do.

TEAMRAW school-based outreach class, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of TEAMRAW, St. George News

TEAMRAW, which stands for “To Educate And Motivate the Ready And Willing,” is an early-intervention program from Utah’s Division of Juvenile Justice Services for youth in Washington County.

There are multiple facets to the program. Besides offering guidance counseling, TEAMRAW Youth Outreach offers street-based education and outreach, crisis intervention, sports recreation like boxing to help with depression and anxiety, one-on-one mentoring and school-based classes.

TEAMRAW has been in existence for 17 years and currently operates in the Washington County Youth Crisis Center. One of the organization’s founders, Alii “Bear” Alo, found the need for TEAMRAW after he kept seeing the same kids coming back to the detention center.

“I was talking to the kids, and a lot of them were talking about how they didn’t have a mentor,” Alo said.

When Alo asked the kids who was the one person at school they could talk to, many of them mentioned their coaches from high schools in Southern Utah. So when coaches approached him, Alo began giving presentations in classrooms on topics like incarceration and life on the streets.

After giving the presentations, he said kids in the classes came up to him and expressed concern for friends who were struggling at home and using drugs.

“I started meeting all of these people who cared and had a passion for the kids,” he said, explaining that having passion and just listening is key to helping them succeed.

Alo began making a presence in the streets and visiting homes to build relationships with the kids to the point where they could trust him and talk to him about their problems.

Now in 2018, TEAMRAW has made an active presence in schools with its school-based youth outreach program, where mentors teach classes in middle and high schools all over Washington County. The school-based program allows students the opportunities to be successful in school if they’re struggling with grades, low attendance and social issues. For most schools, the classes are once a week and range from 30-50 minutes.

Josh Anderson, a mentor who teaches the school-based youth outreach program classes at Hurricane and Pine View high schools, said the evidence-based class involves more peer-mentoring. The class has a suggestion box where students can anonymously write down what they’re struggling with, and then in a group setting, they discuss their problems and possible solutions.

What makes the school-based youth outreach program successful, Anderson said, is the kids are learning what their “why” is.

“The biggest thing that stands out is they now know why they want to make those changes,” he said.

Both Alo and Anderson said whether it’s the street outreach or school outreach, TEAMRAW focuses on why these kids make the choices that they do instead of just the how and what choices they’re making.

TEAMRAW has proven to create lasting relationships with the youth and mentors involved in the program. Alo said people often come up to him and share how they became successful as adults after using the tools TEAMRAW gave them when they were younger.

“The biggest success for us is the relationship part,” Alo said.

To learn more about TEAMRAW, visit its website or Facebook page.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • Carpe Diem December 24, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Flashing gang signs? Not a fan :/

  • Comment December 24, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    I actually really like to work with the younger ones. But man… after about the age of 12, where all they seem to being thinking about is sex… or the next way they’re going to get high… or some way to get into trouble doing some terrible thing. I do not get on well with teens. For those that can stand them, you have my respect. The pay would have to be really good for me to consider working with adolescents. But I’m thankful that I don’t have to.

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