With Merger and Grant, Wyman Hopes to Expand Work with Underserved Kids

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Through a merger with InspireSTL, the St.Louis, Mo.-based Wyman Center hopes to expand its youth development work. Wyman's Teen Outreach Program is used across the country in schools and OST settings, including Brittany Woods Middle School in St. Louis (shown).

courtesy of Wyman Center

Through a merger with InspireSTL, the St.Louis, Mo.-based Wyman Center hopes to expand its youth development work. Wyman's Teen Outreach Program is used across the country in schools and OST settings, including Brittany Woods Middle School in St. Louis (shown).

The Wyman Center, a St. Louis-based nonprofit youth-development organization, has merged with a local academic support program — and received a $1 million grant to support the merger.

The combined organization hopes to provide thousands of disadvantaged St. Louis youth with social, emotional and academic support — and to expand the effort nationally.

Wyman, founded in 1898, recently announced the grant from the Steward Family Foundation.

The grant is  “dedicated to making sure all the promise of that merger comes about,” said David Hilliard, Wyman president and chief executive officer.

Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program, first developed in the 1970s, is now used by more than 300 organizations across the country in settings ranging from school and after-school, to child welfare and juvenile justice agencies.

“It’s a positive youth development program that builds social and emotional skills,” Hilliard said. The program helps kids develop belief in themselves, a sense of purpose and ability to engage in the community.

Wyman merged with Inspire STL, a nonprofit founded by Teach for America corps members five years ago that provides rigorous academic support to disadvantaged teens starting just after seventh grade and continuing through college.

Wyman plans to expand InspireSTL and “share their model across the country,” Hilliard said.

The merger enables Wyman to provide more academic support to the teens it serves and helps InspireSTL be sustainable over the long term.

[Related: Artistic Collaboration: Transforming Youth and Youth Justice by Integrating Arts]

In Wyman’s 2014 annual report, Hilliard noted 13.5 million youth live in poverty in the United States, a figure based on U.S. Census Bureau data for young adults released in December 2014.

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“We have a moral and economic imperative to change this situation — and can do so by changing how we approach the development of young people in our communities,” he wrote.

A goal of InspireSTL is to develop leadership among young people in struggling urban area.

Inspire currently serves about 140 St. Louis students, helping them get financial aid and tutoring, among other things. The organization specifically serves students who demonstrate academic achievement but who are hampered by poverty and lack of opportunity.

“The work of both organizations will complement each other,” Hilliard said.

Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program, which has been the subject of numerous research studies, is provided to kids in weekly meetings for nine months. Its curriculum covers:

  • Communication skills and assertiveness
  • Understanding and clarifying values
  • Relationships
  • Goal-setting
  • Influences
  • Decision-making
  • Human development and sexuality.

Kids in the program also design, carry out and reflect upon a community service project. The Teen Outreach Program has been shown to be effective in reducing kids’ dropout rate, school suspension and academic failure rate, as well as decreasing teen pregnancy, based on a number of studies, including research published by J.P. Allen and S. Philliber in the journals Child Development and the American Journal of Community Psychology in 1997 and 2001, respectively.

For more information about nonprofit mergers:

Why Nonprofit Mergers Continue to Lag,” by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2014

What do we know about nonprofit mergers? by MAP for Nonprofits and Wilder Research, March 2011

Nonprofit Mergers — More than A Tool for Tough Times, by the Bridgespan Group, February 2009

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