Team YES program creates student leaders

Twelve high school students have spent a school year growing in confidence and leadership with the help of Kim Brown of Youth Connections and a program called Team Y.E.S.

Youth Connections is a division of the Wright County Family Services Collaborative that is even further separated into twelve programs. Kim Brown is the Youth Connections coordinator in Maple Lake and one of the programs that she is involved with is Team Y.E.S., which stands for Youth Empowering Students. The program helps high school students to build self-esteem and leadership skills while having fun with recreational activities.

The student members work with fourth graders by playing games, doing team-building activities and being positive role models.

Brown selects students whom she believes would benefit from having successful experiences as a leader and would be good role models. Brown also relies on the help of teachers. They look for students who aren’t the well-known captain of the sports team or members of co-curricular activities, but students who are yearning to be leaders in their own way and make a difference in the lives of others. This program gives students the skills and confidence they need to be influential members of their community.

Raya Schneider, a tenth grader, said of Team Y.E.S., “At first, I really didn’t know what it was. I was nervous like everyone else. But now I think it’s awesome. I love it.”

Team Y.E.S. provides teenagers with life skills which aid them in achieving happiness and success in life. The lessons taught in this program are priceless.

Jenny Saucedo, whose son was a member of the program this year, said, “For Johnathon particularly, this has been a God-send. Now, he smiles all the time which was not something he had ever done before.”

The fourth grade teachers from Maple Lake Elementary also enjoy working with Brown in this program, and this was the second year that the fourth grade teachers, Tim Staloch, Diane Hertwig, and Jennifer DeMarais-Holland, have been a part of it.

“I think that the kids here have done tremendous things with our students,” said Hertwig. “They have shown that with perseverance and as I call it, ‘stick-to-itiveness,’ things seem to go easier.”

DeMarais-Holland also appreciates what the program has done for kids. “It has helped my students get along more as friends instead of individuals,” she said.

Christine Treichler, a co-located social worker and member of the Team Y.E.S. staff, said that they chose to work with fourth grade “because it is a good age gap to set up role modeling.” Brown added that at the same time, the students are closer in age so that they might be friends rather than role models.

The high school members of Team Y.E.S. recently held their end-of-the-year Mini Leadership Camp at Camp Friendship. Throughout the year, they learned how to plan activities, problem solving skills, challenge programs, and good leadership skills that they were expected to demonstrate at the Leadership Camp.

It was an all-day event that started with large group games and then went to smaller group activities in which one or two Team Y.E.S. members, with the help of other Team Y.E.S. staff members, led challenges and games that emphasized teamwork and communication skills.

“By the end of the year, these students have developed self-confidence that to see them lead the fourth graders is like a spark that’s ignited,” said Brown.     At the end of the program, Cody Korbel, a fourth grade studen,t said that he enjoyed Team Y.E.S. “You get to play fun games and learn about fun things.”   Sami Szczzesny said, “My favorite thing about Team Y.E.S. was that you got to learn how to get along with other people.”

Brown hopes that when kids have higher self-esteem, they will make better choices for themselves, and she expects the students to use the leadership training in the future. Some of the Team Y.E.S. members mentioned that the most important things they have learned, like working with people, leadership skills, problem solving strategies and communication skills, will help them in the future. And some say they have even considered making a career of children-care because of the program.

Through the laughter, tears and the friendships, these students have blossomed into young adults that have a passion for serving their community and most importantly, have found confidence in themselves to be strong in who they are.

“Team Y.E.S. is the best way that we can do this,” said Brown.

However, in order to keep Team Y.E.S. in Maple Lake, additional funding is required and the program is seeking sponsors. For additional information, contact Kim Brown at 963-7538.