BYU students help at-risk youth through Y-Serve

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A new Y-Serve program gives BYU students a chance to build relationships with at-risk teenagers.

In keeping with BYU’s motto “Enter to learn, Go forth to serve,” the Center for Service and Learning, or Y-Serve, provides opportunities for BYU students to interact with their community and serve others.

One of the newest programs offered by the volunteer organization is a collaboration with Heritage School, which is a treatment center for at-risk youth that focuses on helping the students develop positive relationships.

The program directors, Cookie Trout, 20, Stacey McKnight, 22, and Rachelle Winkel, 24, have all worked with Heritage before, and best know how to meet the school’s needs.

“We were all already involved in the center, so we got recruited,” said McKnight, an art education major.

At Heritage, they try to “treat the whole student — emotionally, intellectually and physically,” according to the school’s website. They have several sports teams and compete with other schools. The students perform plays, take part in inexpensive humanitarian projects, learn nature skills and participate in an equine therapy program. The school offers Sunday services for several different religions, including Buddhism, Judaism and Mormonism.

Heritage approached BYU  and asked the university to provide more mentors for the students. Since Heritage tries to help teenagers with personality disorders build strong relationships, they need volunteers who are willing to work with the students for an extended period of time.

“We’re looking for mature students, 21 or above, to commit to three months of mentoring,” Winkel said. He explained that volunteers would meet with their students at least once a week to work with them on whatever the student needs help with.

For those who are under 21 or aren’t able to dedicate that much time, Heritage also needs teaching assistants to rotate through the different classrooms and help the teachers or students. Other volunteers can assist with the Sunday services and humanitarian projects.

Although the program is very new, it has already sparked interest among volunteers. Finding help for Y-Serve programs is never difficult at BYU.

“BYU is a very special campus,” Winkel said. “A lot of students come in and say they feel they need to be here.”

A desire to serve is what initially drew all three program directors to Y-Serve. Winkel wanted to continue to serve people after her mission, McKnight fell in love with service after being required to volunteer for class credit, and Trout wanted to find a way to fit in at the university.

“I didn’t come to BYU with a big group of friends, and I was looking for that place where I belonged, where I could say, ‘I am a BYU student,'” Trout said.

For a chance to volunteer at the Heritage School, email .

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