Feel-Good Friday: Teens Learn True Activism and Leadership Skills Through TOP

One of the reasons I highlight young people who are accomplishing huge goals or who reflect their quality through feats of kindness and heroism is to show that there is a segment of Millennials and Zoomers who need to be applauded, and also protected.


There are so many of our youth who are looking for a place to belong, looking to serve a purpose, and wanting to be active in their communities in positive ways. There are also a number of programs that do the work of channeling them in the right direction.

One such program in Toledo, Ohio, is the subject of this week’s Feel-Good Friday.

Since 2007, the Northwest Ohio YWCA has offered a Teen Outreach Program (TOP) to the community. This afterschool program focuses on positive youth development, empowering teens to lead successful lives and be the catalyst that builds stronger communities. For the past seven years, TOP has partnered with the Toledo Public School system, but any young person who attends a secondary school and knows about the program is welcome to participate.

The Summer TOP session has just begun, and the students worked together to make bag lunches for the city’s homeless population. This is called “service learning,” and the students are the ones who brainstorm, plan, and then implement this monthly program that reaches out to the greater Toledo community.

But it’s not all about community outreach. TOP holds weekly meetings for the high schoolers, to offer them a sense of cohesiveness, purpose, and mission. The Gen Zers get to discuss issues relevant to their lives, get instruction on service project development, organize community celebrations, and create positive connections with people they know from their own school, and new people who they are just getting to know.


What I most love about this program: they WANT parents to be involved, and offer quarterly Parent Night events which allow the parents to interact and get a window on what their child has accomplished.

The Wyman National Network is the innovator of the TOP program, and the program has been implemented in a variety of ways across the country. In a world where institutions are being attacked and some torn completely down, it is a hopeful thing that this proven program is being used to mine potential, build character, and offer opportunities in order to craft a generation of future leaders.


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