Non-profit organization seeking sign-ups, sponsors for summer youth program

Published 3:20 pm Thursday, April 21, 2022

NILES — A local non-profit organization is gearing up for a program to support local youth during the summer months.

We-ECHO Youth Services, a non-profit organization serving Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana, is seeking sponsors and participants for its second annual WEYS 2 Shine summer youth program.

The free program will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Thursday and Friday during the summer months between school years at the Niles New Tech building, 1441 Eagle Street and is eligible for students ages 12 to 17. Participating students will take part in fun activities and trips while also learning lessons and skills including money management, health and wellness, building a positive self-image and more. The program is also looking for youth volunteers ages 18 to 24.

According to WEYS founder KC Johnson, Thursdays will cover the curriculum and Fridays will consist of activities that reinforce Thursday’s curriculum.

“For example, our health and wellness model will be talking about mental wellness and how to maintain your emotions when you’re angry and how to channel that,” she said. “That Friday, we’ll be going to a dojo in Benton Harbor to learn taekwondo for the day.”

Johnson founded WEYS in 2020. The organization has been active in the community, hosting bake sales and activities including Michiana’s Youth Got Talent Show and Resource Fair.

A Buchanan native and Niles High School graduate, Johnson created WEYS as a means to give back to the community and to make a positive impact on the local youth.

“I just really have a passion to work with youth and help them develop skills they need to be successful in life and stay out of trouble,” she said. “Seeing the lack of life skills that were present from the time that I grew up to now, there is a huge deficit and the skills that these kids possess. Teaching them about how to balance a checkbook, how to go grocery shopping, you know, things like that, and how for identity, you know, really helping them to look at themselves and what their skills are.”

Johnson said that supporting the mental health of the youth has become an important aspect of the organization’s efforts.

“We cover it so much,” she said. “We’re really trying to pour into these kids so that they can have a brighter future. We’re all about creating an environment for them to have positive leisure. Not just teaching them these skills, but creating some leisure and fun around that.”

Interested parents and sponsors seeking more information can contact We-ECHO by phone at (269) 363-1465 or by email at info@we-echo.org.

“We’re looking for donors and sponsors to help with supporting the kids for the program,” Johnson said. “If people want to get involved, we’re looking for donors, sponsors and volunteers.”

Johnson is looking forward to this year’s program and encourages families to sign up.

“What’s important to me is just making that connection with them and letting them know that they have support outside their parents and others,” she said. “Just being able to be a resource for young people and to even connect them to other resources. We can’t do it all; it takes a family, it takes the whole community. To be able to connect kids with the resources for mental health, physical health, leisure activities, finance, and all the things that we teach means a lot to us.”