Some children we work with are referred to us for a specific program, but most of the children we come in contact with just walk in to our Community Youth Centers. The centers become a "home away from home" for many youth, a place to go instead of "hanging out" on the street or being left alone at home. These centers provide valuable services to hundreds of children from all walks of life, and although it is impossible for us to know how many times a child visiting our centers has prevented them from engaging in some other delinquent activity, the research continuously proves that after-school activities help children succeed academically, emotionally, and socially.
Although our Community Youth Centers provide valuable services to hundreds of children, they also function as a tool for our staff to get to know the youth and identify those kids that require more intensive help. Our work with the Center children has allowed us to develop effective programs that address other needs. We created the Advantages and Station House Adjustment programs to help youth involved in juvenile justice system. When our team noticed a lack of employment skills among youth, Middle Earth developed the Employment Readiness Program. We launched the 21st Century Community Learning Center to provide additional out of school time with a concentrated effort on academics. We realized the need that some youth had for more intense, comprehensive services and set up mentoring through our Outreach Program.
And sometimes, there is no 'official' program for the work that needs to be done. There is a small group of our Center attendees – approximately 150 children each year – who are most deprived of a warm, human connection that receive a great deal of attention and investment from our staff. When our centers are not open, our team provides these kids with individual attention to address their needs, for example, taking the child to a health clinic, helping them fill out a job application, providing academic tutoring, engaging them in community service, or mediating their conflicts with family and friends. Although these efforts absorb a significant amount of our time, we believe that every child deserves to rely on a strong support system. We have been that support for many children over the last three decades, and it is these kids that stay connected to our organization for years to come, returning to tell us the wonderful things they have done with their adult lives or even returning to discuss their adult struggles, because this is a place where they always felt heard.
Every person needs a start for their success – someone who makes them feel worthy, someone who believes in them, someone who puts them on the right path. Middle Earth is that support network for youth. We step in and fill the void so that the youth avoids risky behavior and realizes they are capable of thoroughly succeeding in their life.