The Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum is an evidence-based, interactive, 14-module life skills curriculum. In February 2014, based off data…

The Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum is an evidence-based, interactive, 14-module life skills curriculum. In February 2014, based off data received nearly 600 youth from 9 organizations took advantage of the curriculum (download it for free). Each month we profile one organization that has done remarkable work using Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum. Today, we are honored to introduce Carolyn Kehr, Director and Alyssa Marano, Life Skills Specialist of the New Beginnings Youth Shelter in Brooksville, Florida. New Beginnings is an emergency youth shelter for youth ages 10 – 17 who has been using the curriculum for several months offered to describe the impact on the youth they serve. 

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New Beginnings works with local runaway youth from Hernando, Citrus and Sumter Counties or youth from out-of-state brought in for a shower, food, clean clothes and a safe place to sleep.  In addition, they also serve legal truants that come to the shelter for structure—homework help, chores, and to make sure they get to school every day—as well as ungovernable youth.

“Working at New Beginnings Youth Shelter with the at-risk youth presents an ever-growing opportunity to reach out to the youth and encourage them to do better for themselves, their families, and their community,” Marano explains. “We have all had our ups and our downs, but the biggest challenge is learning to navigate and balance our emotions, thoughts, and especially during our youth, our grades.  This challenge can also be the most fun, if you have the right tools to take it on.”

Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum is such a tool. An evidence-based, youth approved, 14-module life skills curriculum provides more than 40 interactive youth friendly activities to help young people deal with the problems that may lead to running away. And, it has been instrumental in meeting the needs of the youth New Beginnings serves.

“The curriculum helps provide a safe time to discuss many issues all teens face and not only the ones labeled ‘at-risk,’” Marano elaborates.  “As a ‘grown up,’ there are many times I reflect back on my teenage years and think, ‘If only I had known how that decision will affect my future.’  As the facilitator, there are many times I find myself reading and sharing things that would have helped me immensely during my youth.  I feel the Let’s Talk curriculum opens the youths’ eyes on many topics which are not shared in schools.”

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Marano says her favorite was part of the curriculum was Module 3: Personal Influences. “One of the youths’ favorite activities has been role playing.  The kids love to demonstrate their acting abilities, while sharing their personal experiences.  The most memorable moment I have had while sharing a lesson with our youth has been during Module 3: Personal Influences.”   An activity in the module calls on participants to develop their “personal shields” or skills they can adopt to protect themselves from emotional, physical, spiritual, and social harm. The activity was originally created as part of a curriculum for youth living in Kenya.

“While we were discussing our personal shields, one of our youth, who would be considered higher risk than most, shared with us several different ways he feels that he can improve his shield and what a difference it would make in his life. He also shared with us that it requires more than talking about things to change them, but he is glad to be more aware of his actions and is willing to change them to better his own life.”

“I love seeing that the kids are learning and showing improvement in important life skills.  I love it even more when they later come to my office and share how they implemented one of the suggestions from the curriculum in their daily lives.  If it warms your heart to know how you’ve helped another person, and I highly recommend this curriculum.”

New Beginnings Youth Shelter is part of the Youth and Family Alternatives, Inc., which has served 225,000 children and families across Florida. They are committed to working in a collaborative partnership with families and communities to establish and maintain a nurturing environment for children.

The Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum is an evidence-based, interactive, 14-module life skills curriculum created by the National Runaway Safeline. If you are a social worker, teacher, educator or counselor working with youth grades 5 through 12 and interested in runaway prevention you can download the curriculum for free here. NRS also offers training and technical assistance as you use Let’s Talk.  Melanie Santarelli, NRS’ Prevention Specialist, can be reached at (773) 289-1723 or prevention@1800RUNAWAY.org. Also, please contact us if you are interested in nominating your organization or school as an RPC Program of the Month.

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