Adventure Central has been a trusted, community-based, positive youth development partnership serving at-risk children and their parents in the west Dayton community since 2000. This nationally recognized program has provided children and families with opportunities to change their lives by building positive well-being, higher academic performance, and less involvement in risky behaviors. Using nature, our expert, diverse staff nurtures participants in life-changing activities that strengthen values, build lasting life skills, and empower youth to explore life’s possibilities.
Workforce preparation: Youth participating in Adventure Central programs are developing 21st century workforce preparation and interpersonal skills that better prepare them to be productive members of society and positively impact the community in which they live. While all Adventure Central programs reinforce these valuable skills, the Job Experience and Training (JET) program, a nationally recognized 4-H Program of Distinction, is the cornerstone of this effort. In 2016, 22 teens participated in training and job experiences through the JET program and held volunteer or paid positions in a variety of summer jobs at Five Rivers MetroParks facilities. The teens reported an increase in the development of 21st century skills like organization, problem-solving, collaboration and overall leadership.
Teen programs: One significant teen-led effort was the camp counselor program; 22 teens demonstrated outstanding leadership in planning and leading the Adventure Central overnight, residential camp. Via participation in multiple training and planning sessions, the teens planned a highly effective camp. They demonstrated skills such as teamwork, communication, self-direction and critical thinking – vital skills for today’s workforce, all while being great role models for the youth in the program.
Engaging youth and families: Adventure Central engaged more than 230 urban Dayton youth ages 5 to 18 and more than 90 parents/guardians in programming for more than 69,000 contact hours in 2016. This positive youth development initiative, focused on science, nature, and healthy lifestyles was made possible through funding and support from Five Rivers MetroParks, OSU Extension, Ohio 4-H, Ohio 4-H Foundation, University of Dayton, Mathile Family Foundation, and other grants and contracts. Delivery models include after-school, day camp, overnight camp, teen and activity night programs with a specific focus on ongoing contact with youth.
Connecting people with nature: Adventure Central has always placed a high priority on getting youth outdoors and active. Through unstructured time outdoors daily and additional structured group learning adventures in the 60-acre Wesleyan MetroPark, participants and their families have new experiences in nature, which make them socially and emotionally happier, physically healthier, and more open to new possibilities. Youth at Adventure Central spend at least one hour a day outdoors and consistently report that doing so is one of their favorite things about the program.
Parent and family engagement programs: Involving families has been associated with high-quality programs, children’s academic achievement and healthy development. Adventure Central offered family programs in an effort to close the gap between home, school and afterschool, and increase sustainable family engagement. Eight programs were held in 2016 with a total attendance of 811 participants. Parents indicated their primary motivation for participating in these programs was to support and be a good role model for their youth, meeting a key goal of the program and filling a vital role in the lives of those youth. As evidence of strong parental engagement, 100 percent of parents agreed that their child is safe at Adventure Central and Adventure Central has supported their children’s academic efforts. In addition, 90 percent of parents agreed that their child has improved academically because of participation at Adventure Central.
Parent progress report: Youth service providers recognize that involving families in their children’s learning is critical to academic achievement and overall healthy development, but communicating and connecting with parents can be challenging. Since introducing a Parent Progress Report tool in 2011, Adventure Central has observed increases in parent volunteerism, greater participation at events, improved communication, and increased overall support of the program. The tool has been shared with numerous partners, program providers and a national conference audience with the intent of replicating a similar effort elsewhere. Parent volunteer hours have increased 1,000 hours annually since implementation of the Parent Progress Report tool.
Community support: Nearly 200 volunteers and supporters contributed more than 15,000 hours to the program at Adventure Central. The impact of this support is most evident in their service as positive role models and caring adults to all youth in the program. Support came from Adventure Central parents, local high school and college students, University of Dayton Fitz Center for Leadership and Community, Good Neighbor House, and caring community members. Partnerships with the University of Dayton Semester of Service Program and Sisters of Notre Dame Mission Volunteer Program provided continuity of service with five full-time AmeriCorps positions.
Reforestation: Older youth took on a year-long reforestation project to grow 2,500 trees and shrubs as part of a larger initiative with Five Rivers MetroParks. Throughout the process, teens learned how to identify, collect, prepare, germinate and grow a variety of native species. Participants reported gains in understanding how trees grow, an appreciation for nature and natural processes, and awareness of local natural areas and community assets. This project won the national Excellence in Natural Resource/Environmental Education Award from the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents.