Grantee Spotlight

Our Purpose

Young Women on the Move was founded in 2005 to advance the long-term self-sufficiency and well-being of adolescent, under served girls, 11-25, in Kansas City, Kansas. We adhere to a growing body of evidence that investing in girls is one of the wisest investments a community can make. Girls who are educated, resilient, and socially, emotionally and physically healthy- are likely to build healthy relationships, delay childbearing, and become productive citizens. Our framework is designed to connect girls to trusted and caring adults, engage youth voices, strengthen families, support development of life skills, and encourage to stay on track to achieve academic and career goals.

YWOM’s Response to Community Needs

A majority of the girls served by Young Women on the Move (YWOM) face extreme environmental stressors and low expectations for achieving their potential. YWOM provides services to girls in Wyandotte County, with a concentrated focus on low-income girls, ages 11-18, attending school in the KCK school district, and young women, ages 18-25, in need of additional encouragement while learning to navigate life on their own.

Youth in urban Wyandotte County, Kansas are at extreme risk of a number of factors that threaten their potential success.  First, there is a growing number of youth living in low-income, single family homes.  According to the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City’s 2012 study on the status of women and girls, more than 62.5% of Wyandotte County’s families in poverty are female-headed, single-parent households.  Second, Wyandotte County is an unhealthy place to live.  The 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Health Rankings of Kansas Counties listed Wyandotte County 98th of 101 Kansas counties for health outcomes and last for health factors such as physical inactivity, adult obesity, children living in poverty, and incidents of violent crime. Third, the following statistics demonstrate additional risk factors for our target population:

  • 47% of all Wyandotte County children live in single parent households.
  • 95% of children enrolled in the Kansas City, Kansas School District receive free or reduced lunch.
  • In 2014, teen pregnancies in Wyandotte County were double the instance of other Kansas counties and four times the national rate.

A Philosophy of Positive Youth Development for Thriving Youth

The Thrive Foundation, the Search Institute and other youth development experts agree on key components a community, youth organizations, and schools need to incorporate so youth can grow up competent, healthy and develop to their full potential. YWOM is focusing efforts to incorporate the emerging Positive Youth Development Model championed by Cornell University Extension and others. This model promotes a set of guidelines organizations and communities can use to support young people in their growth to be competent, healthy and develop to their full potential.

These guidelines include:

  • Emphasis on Positive rather than negative outcomes Outcomes such as competence (academic, social, vocational skills), connectedness (healthy relationships to community, friends, family), character (integrity, moral commitment), caring and compassion.
  • Youth Voice: Youth as active participants and equal partners in the process.
  • Strategies involve all youth in supportive and enriching environments.
  • Long-term involvement must endure a long period of time to be effective.
  • Community involvement to engage the larger social environment that influences how young people grow up and develop
  • Emphasis on collaboration with community groups working together

Girls enter YWOM’s programs with risk and protective factors that reflect their background and experiences. YWOM staff conduct bio-psycho-social assessment interviews with each girl and parent to determine what, if any, immediate concerns need to be addressed, collect baseline data, and engage girls’ voices in their goals for participation in the program. The assessment is then used to match girls with caring, trusting adult mentors and small groups, participation in skill-building activities to increase resilience and human capital, and to continue support as they work toward immediate and short-term goals.

At the same time, girls begin participating in evidence-based activities grounded in cognitive behavioral theory to increase resilience. Small groups and workshops focus on holistic health – physical, mental, emotional and behavioral – well as developing life skills. Girls begin to participate as group members in activities of their choice, e.g. dance, sports, arts. Staff and volunteers assure that each girl knows she has a caring adult in their life.

To increase self-sufficiency and well-being, YWOM staff and volunteers work with each youth to maintain progress towards their educational goals. Girls learn study skills and receive tutoring, and guidance for college. Volunteers provide career exploration opportunities and teach job readiness skills. Volunteers help to connect youth to job training and employment opportunities.

At all points in girls’ involvement with YWOM, efforts are made to provide help when they feel they need it, whether for counseling or other services. At the same time, they are encouraged to take responsibility for their own actions required to reach their goals.

Community collaboration is essential for YWOM as efforts grow to provide greater experiences for YWOM girls to be actively engaged in meaningful activities and relationships in the community.

To learn more about YWOM, visit their website here.