Youth Education Town Serves North Texas Families
By: Brooke Turbyfill
In October 2013, The Salvation Army Youth Education Town in Arlington, Texas, opened with help from the National Football League’s $1 million Super Bowl Legacy Grant. Located at 712 West Abram Street in Arlington, the facility is the only one of its kind built in partnership with The Salvation Army. The NFL has built 13 other YETs and the NFL Foundation continues to support them through financial grant contributions and through programs such as Play60, a campaign that helps youth get active for 60 minutes a day.
According to Aaron Proctor, director of operations, the Dallas Cowboys organization – headed by Charlotte Jones-Anderson and Gene and Jerry Jones – partnered with The Salvation Army to make the existing facility in Arlington a Youth Education Town since the NFL Foundation has a tradition of building them in former Super Bowl host cities. Proctor said the YET is aimed at serving anyone living in the 76010 zip code, but also extends service to all of the North Texas area.
The YET serves preschoolers, kids ages 5 to 12, teens and adults. The YET model goals include building strong citizens, good leaders and successful young people by serving the whole family. There are after-school programs and summer day camps, and soon Proctor hopes to be open on weekends as well as during the week. “We offer music lessons, dance and theater classes, choir, piano and even taekwondo, with some of our community partners,” he said. “We are able to offer all of that in a way that doesn’t break the bank. But we also equip parents and families through financial literacy, parenting classes, GED and other enrichment classes like resume writing, interview skills, English as a Second Language and computer classes. We want to help the youth get ahead, but also help their family members – whether it’s a traditional two-parent household, single parent or grandparent.”
Some of the summer enrichment is geared at teens with offerings such as digital media production and creative writing camps.
“A lot of what we do at YET is exposing, or opening the doors, to experiencing new things through field trips and hands-on educational opportunities about different careers that are out there and different tracks,” said Proctor. ” We recognize that not every youth will go down the college track, so exposing them to different career paths is something we try to do from a young age.”
As it relates to the youngest community members, YET also partners with the local school district to offer a preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds. Another school district partnership that takes place during the day while elementary kids are in school is an educational program called 18PLUSS. Geared at special needs adult learners ages 18 and up, the program teaches the adult learners self-care, cooking, financial skills and how to get a job. Some of its graduates have gone on to employment with YET.
About 50 youth attend after-school programs and, last summer, YET served over 150 children. Because YET is on the same campus as the Family Life Center (a 15-unit Salvation Army homeless shelter that keeps the family together), some of the kids served come from there.
“So the families are not only able to live on the campus, but they are also able to get recreational programming and educational programming that they may not otherwise have access to. We are open to any youth not only in the area but even far away who need our services and our programs. Regardless of whether you have enough money to pay the fees or whether you speak any English or whether you’re struggling with reading and your grades, we’ll help you. We’ll include you in the programs that will help you grow into a confident, kind, mature, successful young person – and the same is true of the family. We serve the whole gamut of what people would say are underprivileged and others who are well-to-do; we do it all under the same roof,” said Proctor.
“I think that’s what the Youth Education Town is about – equipping young people and their families regardless of any outside circumstances,” he said.