Grantee Spotlight:

Houston:reVision - reaching kids on the edge

Houston: reVision is dedicated to helping transform the lives of troubled youth in Harris County by connecting them to caring adults and to positive peers, and by advocating for their unique educational needs within various systems, such as schools, juvenile detention, and, adult jails and prisons. reVision was created in 2011 through a groundbreaking partnership between St. Luke's United Methodist Church, St. Martin's Episcopal Church, and the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. A common theme spoken at reVision is that "to reach kids on the edge, you have to meet them where they are." Staff and volunteers truly take that notion seriously. Most of the youth served have been rejected by the adults who know them. These youth lack support and have fallen into a pathway that includes school suspensions, gang or criminal behavior, juvenile detention, and long periods of adult incarceration. reVision does not accept this outcome. Instead, reVision pushes into schools and gang systems to find kids on the edge in order to create meaningful relationships with them. Volunteers meet youth at juvenile detention centers and maintain a long-term mentoring relationship for ongoing support. Extensive research on high risk youth and resiliency finds that successful life outcomes are strongly linked to the presence of at least one caring adult in a child's life, even if that adult's presence is limited. reVision provides a caring adult for every child the organization serves. During 2014, the organization engaged more than 200 volunteers who contributed 5,750 hours of their time to reach 320 kids on edge in the Houston area. reVision provides an array of services to youth involved with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department, including:

Mentoring

Through partnerships with St. Luke's United Methodist Church, St. Martin's Episcopal Church, and seven other churches throughout the Greater Houston area, reVision has recruited and trained more than 200 active volunteers. Many of these mentors begin working with youth while they are detained in one of the juvenile facilities operated by the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. Currently, mentors visit youth at the Juvenile Detention Center, Burnett-Bayland Rehabilitation Center, and the Harris County Leadership Academy. The mentor and youth build a connection while the youth is detained and continue the relationship after release. reVision mentors help youth transition successfully back to the community, provide encouragement, support, and a positive role model. 

Case Management and Community Support

reVision outreach staff have unique and specialized experience working with at-risk youth. Staff are also trained in Motivational Interviewing, an evidence based practice that helps individuals see the need for change in their lives while providing the tools to create that change. A thorough case management approach is employed, maintaining regular weekly contact with the youth, identifying their needs, locating services through collaborations with over 13 community agencies, and working one-on-one to develop their plans for the future. Most importantly, the outreach staff work to build community among the youth by organizing regular group activities for them.

Life Skills Training

reVision hosts gatherings of Juvenile Probation Officers, parents, youth, and mentors twice a week, in Southwest Houston and in the Katy/Cy Fair area. Volunteers provide hospitality and food each week, creating a welcoming, supportive environment. reVision staff and volunteers lead interactive workshops at these events that provide education and support for both parents and youth. Workshops are offered on Life Skills, Parenting Skills, as well as Creative Expression. These workshops are designed to equip youth with skills necessary for successful integration into their families and their communities.  

Certified Youth Outreach

Since 2012, reVision has provided mentors to juveniles who are certified as adults. Many of these youth are sentenced to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), and are placed at the Clemens Unit in Brazoria, Texas. This year, reVision was approved as a program by TDCJ and is now providing volunteer support to all the certified youth who are serving time at the Clemens Unit in Brazoria County.

Rockwell and reVision

For a young organization, reVision has tremendous momentum behind it. Executive Director, Charles Rotramel, has the ability to bring passion and consensus building to an issue and population that is normally overlooked in the non-profit sector. In 2013, Houston reVision partnered with Spring Branch ISD to pilot Keeping Kids in School at Northbrook Middle School. The pilot is a radical new approach to discipline and caring for youth on the edge, andRockwell Fund enthusiastically supports it. The pilot is in its early stages, but already has many in the community and Spring Branch Independent School District very excited. The pilot aims to reengage about 40 students who have histories of multiple suspensions, juvenile justice involvement, and low parental and family support. Participants will receive intensive tutoring support, mentoring, group talk therapy, and clinical therapy as needed as opposed to traditional, reactive discipline methods that only exacerbate the challenges these youth face.

Ideally this strategy will alter trajectories for the youth receiving support, but by design it should also transforms the school culture into one where all youth feel supported and cared for. At most schools with negative climates, it is the behavior of less than 3% of the students that drives restrictive and harsh discipline policies, like suspensions, ticketing, and other measures. Research shows that these measures do not reduce the negative behaviors of students. Instead, the measures structure an environment where the entire school feels uninviting and hostile-the opposite of a positive school climate that leads to school success. The reVision approach provides troubled youth with the resources they need, and encourages the school to dismantle the negative discipline structure it may have put in place.

Recently reVision staff collected thoughts on the program from youth and from mentors.

What do reVision youth think?
It really does change your life.

reVision is there to give me a positive answer and help me to think positive.

You take reVision away, you take away my family.
What do reVision mentors think?

reVision's impact does not stop with the troubled youth themselves. reVision makes a huge difference in the lives of its mentors and volunteers.  Personally, I can bear witness to this truth. Serving as a reVision mentor has been the single most transformative experience in my life this past year. I haven't just learned a lot about kids who are very different from me; I've learned a whole lot about myself in the process. I'm a more empathetic and compassionate person than before I began mentoring. I listen better than I did before. I am slower to judge and more curious to know about the root of societal problems.

The young people of reVision have made mistakes and they all tell me they have done things they should not have done. I am now firmly committed to work with the community to create options for change so these youth have some resources to help them change their lives. I find reVision is working with the juvenile probation services, schools, churches and community to begin the work to reconnect these young men to humanity. The smile of hope I always get as I leave that first meeting says a lot to me… that handshake is a welcome beginning for these young men.

 

To learn more about Houston: reVision visit: http://houstonrevision.org/

 


reVision youth and mentors connect through sports, the arts, and skills building classes.