Organization prepared to help students returning to school

Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 8:31 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -Districts across Kansas are determining new guidelines for students as they return to school. Organizations that work with those schools are also standing by for answers.

STAND is a youth leadership program in Harvey County that focuses on preventing substance abuse and encourages positive choices. It serves five schools in Harvey County and Peabody. The group is looking forward to helping students make healthy decisions regardless of what school looks like this fall.

STAND hosts alternative activities giving students a place to go after sporting events and runs mental health campaigns throughout the year.

Benjamin Meier is the youth leadership program manager at Mirror and leads STAND. He said he’s waiting on instructions from each district before moving forward. He said school boards are making difficult decisions.

“We are going to figure out what those decisions are and then see how we can plug in, see how we can help out with the adjustment back to school in whatever capacity that looks like and try to have an impact on those kids whether they are present in school or whether they are at home,” Meier said.

When schools closed in March, STAND did not get to finish its programs with middle and high school students. Maier said he’s concerned students may have lacked structure or much positive influence over the last six months schools have been closed.

Mackenzie Martens will be a sophomore this fall. She said she and her friends are ready to return to school, even if things won’t be like they used to. Martens serves on the STAND board. Board members are meeting Monday to discuss how STAND can encourage students to make positive decisions even if school administrations do not allow assemblies or student gatherings.

Martens said STAND is also involved throughout the community, not just in schools. Students work with local businesses and use social media to connect with teens.

"STAND itself is kind of a cool place to be. All of these kids if they're athletic, if they're academic, they're all coming together, so you get to know lots of other people from other schools and it's a good way to spend your time in a positive way," Martens said. "And you're all working toward one thing, and that's trying to make a difference in your age of people all over the community and county."

Meier said that it’s not just up to the schools to encourage teens. He said kids benefit from any positive interaction with adults. He encourages adults to check in on the kids in their life.

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