While most people in our community still have jobs, homes, and plenty of food, it nags at us that there are many who are living in fear of failure. It is most painful when we see that many of those living in fear are the youngest in our community. Thankfully, there are community leaders who know that it takes investment of time and self to help young children become successful and confident. Below are two programs underway in Federal Way that help children learn that they can succeed.

Two programs, one private and individual, the other aimed mostly at the public schools and systemic reform, offer rich investment opportunities. Communities in Schools, with strong support from the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, manages the Personal Academic Student Support (PASS) Mentoring Program. Mentors receive an initial half-day training, along with support materials. After clearing background checks and filing a successful application, they are paired with an eager student, most often from a middle school, though the program now includes fifth graders. These mentees are eager and capable. The students selected are not the habitual problem children. Rather, counselors select those who show much promise but who have a few factors that could lead to problems, without some additional support. In other words, mentors work with those they can really impact positively. The mentoring sessions are generally an hour long and take place on the school campus. Unlike traditional tutoring opportunities, mentors talk with their students, often while playing cards or board games. For many of the mentees this is the one time in the week when an adult listens attentively to them. As the relationship builds, students share their lives and mentors can offer bits of wisdom, experience, and most of all, genuine human care to the students. For more information on the PASS Mentoring Program and an application, visit http://federalway.ciswa.org.

Kids at Hope (KAH) is a fascinating approach to working with children, systemically, through public schools, or private after-school clubs. The founding principle of the organization is that all children are capable of success – no exceptions! Rather than focusing on risk factors, human dysfunction, and the many barriers children face, KAH traffics in hope. It does so by training school staff and child-centered organizations and programs in a thorough-going philosophy and system of hope. Adults are taught to catch children doing well and to report their observations to them, “Giving Aces,” to children so they can build their hope and learn to believe in their own success. When children are encouraged to believe that they can excel, in time, they do excel. Some might initially dismiss such optimism as unrealistic and feelings-based. However, the program is backed by scientific research and grounded not in mere self-esteem but in celebrating real achievements – real success. The KAH website offers a wealth of information, examples of their own success stories, and the means by which this dynamic and positive approach to children can come to your school or organization.

Whether you help one child through a mentoring program like Personal Academic Student Support or you bring systemic redirection through hope-based programs like Kids at Hope, there is nobility and legacy that comes with investing in children. Make your success the community’s by improving a child’s future.