Real Life Teen Choices is an in-school education program for middle and high school students. Educators like Jennifer Kennedy spend a week with students discussing risk avoidance, healthy choices, and future possibilities.
According to Jennifer, being a Real Life Teen Choices educator for FYI isn’t as much a job as it is an open opportunity to promote positive change for students now and for their future families.
“We use our life experiences to teach them and guide them to better choices for themselves, to help them reach that healthy future, and to help them lay a foundation for their own family when they have one,” she said. “Making healthy choices now will lead to those happy, healthy family structures later in life.”
This has been Jennifer’s second full year as a Real Life educator. Previously, she worked as a PCT at Dayton’s Children’s Hospital and an STNA Hospice of Dayton, and also as a volunteer Youth Leader at LACC/RPC. This prepped her heart for her FYI position.
“For me, it was about loving the patients and students and giving them what they needed,” Jennifer said of her previous job experience. “I have transferred that into this job – loving the students that I am with. I don’t know exactly what they need from me, but if I can make them feel special and valued in my time with them, then my time was well spent.”
The Real Life Teen Choices program uses a whole body approach by discussing physical, social, emotional, mental health as well as wellbeing. One particular interaction underscores the impact our Real Life program can have on a life.
“I was at a school last year and a student came to me after class. She shared that she had a friend who had attempted suicide the weekend before. Her friend had not communicated with their parents what they were going through. We were able to locate the student, alert the school’s counselor and the student received the medical and mental help they needed.”
Teaching student’s empowerment is a hallmark of our program.
“In reality, I am not just teaching them about risk avoidance, but to stand up and use their voice for someone who might need it. We are empowering the kids we see every day, letting them know they can make choices where they do not have to follow the crowd,” she said. “We help them realize they do not have to do what everyone else is doing. We give them the courage and refusal skills to get out of uncomfortable situations. I am teaching them that they are never alone; that there is someone who wants to be there for them. We help them identify caring and trusted adults in their life as a positive asset. These days kids can get so lonely. A lot of times, youth think adults do not understand them or they are just too busy for them. So, it is incredibly important that we are encouraging them to find that caring adult. It can make a big difference.”
“Compassion is the underlying component of the whole program. It is needed because the kids are going through a lot, and you have no idea what they are going through at home or school. Compassion meets the students where they are. This allows us to make our week a safe environment for them,” she said.
Being a Real Life educator lets Jennifer make a difference every day. Knowing this has allowed Jennifer to grow personally as she helps kids grow.
“I have gained a better understanding of the students that I teach,” she said. “It makes me happy to be able to engage with the students. It is not just seen in the classroom, but sometimes outside the classroom. They will come up to me in public and say, 'Hey, aren’t you Ms. Jen, you were in my class!' So I know that I am helping them now, and actually for the rest of their life. I am teaching them and building a bond with them beyond the classroom.”
FYI is currently seeking part-time Real Life Educators for the new school year starting this fall. Anyone interested can call us at 937-845-0403. Take a look at the job description - job qualification No. 1 might surprise you!