Typically, high school students are learning to drive, starting their first job, preparing for college and becoming adults all with the support of a parent. However, some high school students have a very different story and can sometimes lack the presence of an adult support system. According to the Sioux Empire United Way, a survey conducted of at-risk teenagers in Sioux Falls found that 51 percent were not living with a parent and/or guardian. The survey also found the following:
- 37% needed help finding a job.
- 28% needed help finding housing.
- 19% needed help learning how to budget money, pay rent, or deal with a landlord.
National studies also indicate that youth in unstable living environments are likely to drop out of school, deal with a substance addiction or become a young parent. Over time this can lead to significant costs to the community in terms of law enforcement, treatment programs and more. This data indicates that we have a duty to fulfill here in the Sioux Empire during this pivotal time of life for our youth. Fortunately for the youth of Sioux Falls, a youth success program was born through Lutheran Social Services in partnership with the United Way, local community volunteers and the Sioux Empire colleges and universities. This success program is “USUCCEED University.”
USUCCEED University is a component of the broader USucceed Mentoring Program, which matches high school youth with an adult volunteer mentor. The mentor and student then focus on independent living skills, relationship building and also setting and reaching education goals. Globe University-Sioux Falls has been active with USUCCEED University by working with Lutheran Social Services and other colleges and universities, like Kilian Community College, Augustana College and University Center, through offering interactive sessions to USUCCEED mentors and students. These sessions introduce the students to the local college representatives through discussions on what they think college is like, what they think it will take to get into college and provides students an opportunity to ask questions about how to make their career goals a reality.
According to Brandi Umberger, USUCCEED Coordinator for Lutheran Social Services, “USUCCEED University has planted the seed of higher education in many minds here in the Sioux Falls community. It is also helping our youth to seriously think about their future careers.”
The USUCCEED University motto is “College is Possible.” All students deserve the opportunity to consider higher education as part of their future. USUCCEED University removes barriers that some students face when considering college by presenting options in a neutral and fun way. The more opportunities that are presented to our youth, the more likely they are to pursue them.
Melanie Schopp, Campus Director and Dean of Students for Globe University-Sioux Falls, explains that “without the partnership of our local colleges and schools working together for our youth, we will not see these students enter our campuses and provide the opportunity to educate our community. It is integral for the students of the Sioux Empire to know and understand all of their options when exploring careers, but even more so for each of them to understand that they CAN go to college.”
Mark Lee, Executive Dean for University Center, echoes why this program is so important to our community: “It’s hard to even begin to estimate the impact to our community when we encourage students who may not have even finished high school to actually go on to post-secondary education. First, this program has the potential to change the entire family tree, going forward, for these students. Second, it’s very likely that these individuals will stay and work in Sioux Falls, so it’s a great way to grow a talented workforce from within.”
USUCCEED will continue to impact our high school students as we head into this next school year. If you are interested in volunteering to be a mentor, please contact Lutheran Social Services.
By contributing author Melanie Schopp, Campus Director, Globe University-Sioux Falls