From the excited faces and camaraderie at the St. Patty’s Fun Day, it’s hard to imagine that three years ago such an event wouldn’t have happened at Discovering Choices School. Youth Central began the Youth Council at Discovering Choices in 2009. A grant from EducationMatters in 2011 has allowed the council to continue to grow and the difference it has made is amazing.

“That would never ever happen [before],” commented Shawna as two students embraced in a victory hug after competing in the last activity of the afternoon. To Shawna, the whole atmosphere of the school has changed, especially the relationship between students and teachers, “We can all sit in the same room and have fun.”

Outreach programs at the CBE, like Discovering Choices, help students overcome obstacles in completing their high school diploma. The school offers curriculum courses and work experience opportunities and even with the flexible pace, some students still have difficulties attending and completing school.

Shawna has participated in the Discovering Choices Youth Council since its beginning and says that it is her reason to come to school. “I hated walking into this school. Period,” said Shawna, but things have changed for her and the other members. Shawna’s journey with the Youth Council began when a teacher first approached Shawna’s friend.

Her friend was hesitant, but with Shawna’s encouragement, both girls joined. Smiling at the memory, she added that Council involvement helped her friend successfully complete her high school education that year. Shawna herself has benefited from the Council, which has helped her with public speaking and building her confidence.

Youth Central is an organization focused on giving youth a voice, providing opportunities to volunteer and develop leadership skills. Sylvia Galica began the leadership council at three of the Discovering Choices locations. “It brings students together,” noted Sylvia, adding that many friendships are formed because of the council. Youth council members gain confidence and leadership qualities as they engage in various community projects such as the Children’s Festival and undertake fundraising initiatives to raise money for small causes.