Wake County’s Youth Thrive ramps up efforts to support organizations working for youth

sbarr@newsobserver.comMay 28, 2014 

— A small Wake County nonprofit is ramping up its efforts to make sure local youth have access to the people and programs that will help them flourish.

YouthThrive, a organization dedicated to the success of youth ages 5-18, doesn’t provide direct services. Instead, it makes sure those that serve youth are connected to one another, with the resources they need to do their best work.

“We try to strengthen those individuals and organizations that serve young people,” said Shannon Weatherly, who started as Youth Thrive’s executive director earlier this year.

While there are plenty of programs and services for youth, the groups that provide them aren’t always connected to one another, she said. With better connections, youth are more likely to find the resources that meet their needs.

Youth Thrive helps groups to collaborate, provides technical assistance and finds ways to share and evaluate data.

The group is funded by the John Rex Endowment and housed within the United Way of the Greater Triangle.

Youth Thrive has worked in Wake County for four years, but with a new action plan and a new executive director in place, the group is hoping to expand its efforts.

Weatherly said the group’s goal is to be a neutral covener that can adapt to the needs of all.

“I feel like Wake County, as a community of people, hired me,” she said.

Betsey McFarland, executive director of the Wade Edwards Foundation and Learning Lab, said Youth Thrive has long been a resource for connecting to other organizations.

Those connections help small organizations expand their involvement in youth serves as well as secure funding because they can band together with other groups, she said.

McFarland joined Youth Thrive’s steering committee earlier this month to help further the group’s work.

“We bring our collective wisdom and our collective resources to try to have an effect on an important part of our community,” she said.

Weatherly said a recent series of community stakeholder conversations also will help to guide the group’s work.

The conversations showed that people in all areas of the county think youth need more help accessing existing programs, in terms of both transportation and affordability. People also idenfiied a need for increased parental involvement and workforce preparation.

As Youth Thrive tackles those issues, they’ll be guided by an action plan setting out their priorities that Weatherly hopes both individuals and groups will find inspiration in.

“We want people to read it and figure out how they fit into it,” she said.

Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah

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