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Endless Ways to Support the Children of Worcester: Featuring Youth Villages and The Worcester Youth Orchestras

By Kristen Bosse

All children need support and opportunities to make a successful transition into adulthood. Positive youth development is crucial to help them acquire the knowledge and skills they need to become healthy and productive adults. Programs that facilitate youth development focus on their strengths, and recognize the distinct qualities of each individual. Whether it be providing a creative outlet, or lending support when they need it most, each program can have their own unique mission towards a stronger youth community. The Worcester Youth Orchestras and Youth Villages are two organizations doing amazing things in the town of Worcester. There is no one way to support the youth of your community. Each organization can have its own way of lending a helping hand.

Youth Villages

Youth Villages is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully. Founded in the merger of two residential treatment campuses in 1986, they have been helping the children and families in multiple states live successfully for more than twenty-five years. Their range of services varies from Intensive In-Home Treatment, Foster Care, Mentoring, and other programs that help teens live independently upon aging. Their treatment models have proven effective for years, dramatically improving the chances of success for the children of Worcester. Their main belief is that improving the outcomes for children in crisis must start at the source- their family life. By building stronger family ties, children are able to rise above the system.

Although Youth Villages performs their services all over the east coast, their presence in Worcester has really been highlighted over the past few years. They serve the families of Massachusetts through residential treatment, intensive in-home services, and transitional living. One of their most popular services in the area, the Intensive In-Home treatment, provides help for youth with emotional and behavioral issues, children and families in their own homes at times convenient for the families. This "Intercept" program is a great alternative to foster care, juvenile centers, or other options that take the child away from the family. Again, it is all about creating a strong family bond. No child is a lost cause. Matt Stone, Executive Director of Youth Villages, has some pretty strong views on this very topic.

"At Youth Villages, we believe no child is a lost cause. We believe that every child deserves a second or third chance at success and a chance to receive the best, most effective behavioral and mental health care. That's what we strive to provide at Youth Villages in the Worcester area and throughout Massachusetts. Our goal is to help children stay with their families whenever safely possible and to provide them with the intensive in-home support they need to learn to live successfully at home and in the community."

Another vital program utilized in the Worcester Area is Youth Villages Transitional Living service. Teens who are transitioning out of foster care statistically have had a hard time, often facing prison time, social dependency, and economic hardship. YV tries to prevent this by helping teens find safe housing, employment, and even learn to manage their physical or mental health issues long term. Recently, research was done in Tennessee on a group of young people who are transitioning from foster care to adulthood. Although results have just been released, it is already evident that they are at their most vulnerable when they exit foster care. "Children deserve to live healthful, happy, fulfilled lives", Stone says. "Mental health issues, trauma, histories of abuse or neglect should not stand in their way." With over 23,000 children helped across the United States each year, Youth Villages is making a huge impact on lasting success for the American Youth.

The Worcester Youth Orchestra

When it comes to staying out of a trouble as a teen, one of the best ways is to keep yourself busy with a fun activity that allows you to be creative. This activity can be painting, fitness classes, or even playing in an orchestra! The Worcester Youth Orchestras, founded in 1947, offers musical training and orchestral experience for aspiring young musicians. The orchestra itself is the third oldest youth orchestra in the country and has a long history of putting on amazing performances in some of the community's most prestigious theaters. Today, it is actually comprised of three different orchestras and is directed by Jonathan Brennand.

The three orchestras that make up the program are The Worcester Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Worcester Youth Junior Philharmonic, and the Worcester Youth Baroque Orchestra. The WYJP is for beginners who would seek orchestral experience in a hardworking but fun atmosphere. The WYSO is a bit more advanced, with a rigorous audition process and a full list of performances. The Baroque ensemble is their chamber orchestra, comprised of only 10-15 students, and so named because of their strictly Baroque-Era pieces. Students in every orchestra are required to participate in their school music programs. These various tiers allow for students of all skill levels to perform and enjoy music alongside their peers.

Although the WYO welcomes all students to audition, spots are limited to those that have proven their dedication and skills as a young musician. This audition process itself is a positive thing for students, requiring them to practice, practice, practice, and remain a motivated and determined individual. There is something about a practiced skill that teaches children invaluable lessons about patience, determination, and drive. Sarah Kelly, Executive Director of the Worcester Music Academy, was nice enough to comment on the benefits that come along with participation in the WYO.

"A lot of schools have cut music programs from their schools or offer very little. Even when there is an orchestra at their school, students will be playing with other students of various skill levels. The groups usually have to play less musically challenging music to accommodate the various skill levels. Participating in WYO gives talented students an opportunity to play challenging music that they would most likely not have the chance to play at school. They also get to build friendships with other students who have similar interests and a passion for music."

The great thing about this program is that it provides a challenging music program for children who are without music in their school system. Kids in Central Massachusetts now have the opportunity to experience music the same way, or even better, than kids in other areas may have. This is why the Worcester Youth Orchestras is so essential to their community. They are supporting the children in the town by providing them with an amazing program that will not only hone their skills as a young musician, but as a responsible, motivated adult.

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