Youth Opportunities Unlimited, a local Community Based Non-Profit Organization located in Marks, Mississippi will be implementing an innovative new program titled, “Delta DREEAM (DaRing to Excel in Education through Advocacy and Modeling) during the 2011-2012 school year. The program will target over 1,100 school age youth in the 5th and 6th grades, and follow them throughout their middle school year. Delta DREEAM will impact over 18 elementary and middle schools in the rural Mississippi Delta. ABAN AYA, a 4-year evidence based curriculum that provides accurate information to deter risky behaviors (e.g. unsafe sex, violence, alcohol and drug use), will be used by the program model. The program approach is designed to change student perceptions of acceptable behavior, and alter dangerous norms (weapon carrying, drug trafficking, sexual activity, fighting, etc.)
In addition to the once per week classroom sessions, students will be paired with mentors who will track their academic progress, school attendance, and school behavior. Weekly recreational activities will be provided to engage students in structured, positive outlets that will provide a safe haven, and allow them to explore their creative talents. All students will have the opportunity to participate in the program for four consecutive years. The ultimate goal of the program is to improve student health and academic outcomes. Funds for this program are provided by State and Federal Grant Initiatives, and Private Donors.
In an area where resources are extremely limited, we are elated to have this unique opportunity to impact such a large number of students throughout the Mississippi Delta. For additional information about Youth Opportunities Unlimited and the Delta DREEAM Project, go to www.youmsdelta.org.
Evelyn Jossell is the CEO of Youth Opportunity in Marks, MS, and the state’s 2011 Mom Congress delegate. She is also the Resource Developer for the Quitman County School District and founder of Imani Professional Consulting, a Limited Liability Company with a vision of transforming underserved communities through resource development, grant writing, programs management and evaluation.