July, 21 2017
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New Florida Troubled Youth Mission
Hernando County hasn’t seen the last of Michael Ransaw.
The former school principal and Spring Hill resident has co-founded Youth Recovery Services, a nonprofit organization designed to help troubled teens break the cycle of drugs, fighting and dropping out of school.
How this Program for Troubled Teens is Different
And, unlike the dozens of other organizations in the county that work within schools to prevent or discipline youth, Ransaw’s organization is designed to help them outside of school hours.
“Our mission is threefold: We look to intervene and recover young people from lives of at-risk behavior and crime, provide supervised academic and enrichment activities for youth during non-school hours and make our community safer for everyone,” Ransaw said.
Its services — which include a newly implemented after-school prevention education program — are free to youth or families that meet various risk factors, such as suspension, truancy, school failure, drugs or a family history of incarceration.
The Program's Philosophy
“Our philosophy is based upon a firm belief that every child can succeed if they are given the proper supervision, motivation and guidance,” Ransaw said. “We work directly with young people to help them understand, accept responsibility for, gain control of and direct their own lives in a positive law-abiding manner.”
The program’s components include school and court advocacy, prevention and intervention, leadership development and after-school programs with mentoring and tutoring.
How and Why Ransaw Started YRS
As executive director and co-founder of YRS, Ransaw explained that he initially began working on the project two years ago, after years of working in public schools and witnessing ongoing patterns of behavior with troubled youth.
“In all of the public school systems I’ve worked in, we didn’t have the resources — whether personnel or fiscal — to address these issues appropriately,” he said.
Determined to uncover a solution that worked, he spent most of last year researching and meeting with leaders of cutting-edge youth delinquency programs in places such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
He then created and tailored an organization for local youth.
“Our program is specifically designed for the youth of Hernando County,” he said. “We have a high rate of juvenile crime and substance abuse here, and if we don’t do something about it, these are the same people who will be breaking into our homes, putting a gun to heads and robbing us.”
Prior to solidifying YRS’s mission and services, its board of directors conducted an assessment of all the other organizations in the county so its services would not overlap, then interviewed families in local neighborhoods about their needs.
“After obtaining information about what other services were being provided, we developed our own program to work on the overall young person — academically, socially, leadership development and working with the family,” Ransaw said. “What came up most frequently was the need for supervised activities during non-school hours.” Thus, the organization is community-based, with all of its activities slated to take place at a facility off Kennedy Boulevard in Brooksville.
“That way, we have more control and supervision over what’s taking place, versus on a school site and somewhere we cannot supervise,” he said.
Families are required to be a part of the program, with an individual, age-based plan developed based on their needs and grade level.
Ransaw said he believes school principals should be less concerned with FCAT scores and getting funding and more concerned with the overall wellbeing of children and their families.
“After you find out these kids’ life circumstances, you find out they haven’t had a fair chance,” Ransaw said. “And instead of trying to build and strengthen families, (people) punish kids, which divides families. Let’s provide some alternatives to sending our kids to jail.”
With nonprofit status achieved in July, the organization has already received a $62,000 delinquency prevention grant from the Department of Justice for its youth recovery program.
What Teens will Benefit from the Program
Designed for kids ages 10 to 18, the agency is currently screening volunteers and an official start date has not yet been set. However, there are 30 young people enrolled in the youth recovery program and an additional 50 kids expected in the new after-school program.
Funding for the Program
With only 25 percent of the grant money received so far, the organization has been being built primarily on contributions from people like prominent Spring Hill insurance agent and school board candidate James Yant, who co-founded the organization.
“He and I have both utilized our personal funds and resources because it’s something we truly believe in,” Ransaw said.
The organization is already working with the county’s other agencies such as Kids Central, Teen Court and the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
“We have really been embraced by the local organizations and agencies, many of which have actually referred young people to us,” he said. “It’s been a great partnership and everyone has pitched in with this endeavor. It’s been a tremendous community effort.”
With many Spring Hill children without transportation, the organization’s current greatest need is a minivan — or bus passes — to pick students up or drop them off.
And Ransaw, who has seen his fair share of media coverage in recent years after losing his job at Powell Middle School and running for school board, is into the project full force.
“I have a new purpose now,” he said. “We have an epidemic that we really need to address, and one of my missions is to keep this at the forefront.”
YRS officials are planning a grand opening event, tentatively scheduled for late November.
For more information, go to www.youthrecoveryservices.com
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