A regional nonprofit is looking to strengthen its presence in Cleveland to help teens make good choices.
On Point, a nonprofit based in Chattanooga that serves both Bradley and Hamilton counties, seeks to give students the tools they need to avoid risky behaviors and make good life choices.
“On Point was founded 22 years ago. We began working here in Hamilton County as a strategy to help youth avoid risky behavior,” On Point President and Chief Executive Officer Lesley Scearce said.
A partnership was formed with New Hope Pregnancy Care Center to begin providing the program in the Bradley County and the Cleveland City Schools system.
“We spent about 15 years partnering together. We provided curriculum and training. They continued to grow their prevention program,” Scearce said.
A cut in federal funding meant New Hope could no longer financially support the program.
When that happened three years ago, the On Point office took over the Bradley County program. The Bradley County coordinator is Todd Preston.
The organization provides two programs in Bradley County —”‘Think On Point” and “Life On Point.”
The organization’s mission is “... to partner with schools and communities to cultivate the strengths in youth and guide them on their path to thrive.”
To raise funds for the Cleveland program, On Point is holding a banquet at First Baptist Church of Cleveland on Sept. 23. None of the funds raised at the event will go to the Chattanooga program.
The event will feature stories of students who have benefited from the program.
Singer/songwriter and author Andrew Peterson will be the night’s special guest.
“His song-writing really just mirrors our heart for kids,” Scearce said
The theme for this year is “Sow Something Lasting.” Individual tickets are available for $50. Tables are available for $400. A $50 discount is available for those who reserve a table before Aug. 29. Tickets can be purchased by contacting On Point at 423-899-9188 or www.LiveOnPoint.org
The organization’s “Think On Point” is a one-week program taught in every middle and high school in the Bradley County and Cleveland City school systems.
Scearce said the budget just to run the Bradley County program is about $200,000 a year.
“Currently the majority of that is not being raised in the community of Cleveland. It is coming from grants we are writing,” Scearce said.
Community financial support would allow the Cleveland program to be secure and positively expand.
This includes curriculum, paying On Point Bradley County staff, “Life On Point” college visits, food for the student meetings and volunteer training.
Scearce said the “Think On Point” program started as a teen pregnancy prevention program. Now, the program deals with the root causes of risky behavior such as drug abuse and being sexually active.
“We began to take a broader and a deeper approach to this,” Scearce said.
The program gives students tools to “think critically about the choices they make,” avoid risky behaviors and make good choices for their future. The program is offered as a part of the state-required wellness classes.
In the past year in Bradley County and Cleveland City schools, nearly 6,000 have completed the program
On Point’s “Life On Point” program is offered at each of Bradley County’s middle and high schools.
Scearce said the Cleveland schools are on a wait list pending the needed financial and community support. September’s banquet will be one way to raise community awareness of the program and create local advocates for the program.
In addition to funding, principal support and a faculty sponsor have to be committed to the program before it can be implemented.
“‘Life On Point’ is a weekly leadership and life-skills training. We have the opportunity to meet with students who voluntarily join the program at their school, every week from sixth grade until they graduate from high school,” Scearce said. “It’s really small-group mentoring.”
Since the program is being offered during the school day, usually as part of advisory or club time, On Point has aligned the curriculum with the state education standards.
Scearce said this is important because some schools give classroom time for the program. Scearce said she wants the program to support what students are already learning.
Students sign up for the program at the beginning of the school year; however, if interest exceeds the number, the facilitators can handle a selection process is chosen to make sure the students are committed to the program.
Scearce said this could include a written-essay process or talking with school administrators about which students would benefit most from the program.
“They are excited about having a safe place as a teenager to really to think about yourself and your future and have peers around you that are going to back it up,” Scearce said.
Each group develops its own rules and contracts at the beginning of the semester.
The curriculum focuses on “... healthy choices, academic attachment, resisting peer pressure, positive social support and positive life vision.”
Scearce said the curriculum is designed so the adult facilitating the group can choose to focus on the elements the students want to discuss or need the most.
“It may look different at Ocoee than it does at Lake Forest,” Scearce said.
On Point facilitators run each of the sessions of both the “Think On Point” and “Life On Point” programs.