Kylie Allen has a passion for helping teens navigate tough situations. She understands that years 11 through 18 are among the most formative of any person’s life. She works for The Family Hope Center of Geneva.
The Hope Center, through Allen’s effort, recently launched a youth group at the South Seneca High School. It’s called Courageous Beauty. They meet weekly with participants ranging from 11 to 18 years. The beauty of the Courageous Beauty program is that it delivers a message and provides an outlet to girls in the community before they would ordinarily encounter or experience the Hope Center.
That’s because the Hope Center provides pregnancy and parenting education and support services for relationships. Typically, those who encounter the Hope Center are already facing an unplanned pregnancy. Allen said that she launched the Courageous Beauty program as a means to connect with girls before they’re faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
“We talk a lot about self-worth and healthy relationships,” she explained. The group meets once a week. “We’re really excited about the group that just started in Ovid,” Allen continued. Group sessions begin with an activity or game, something that helps break the ice and gets the girls talking.
“Then as the girls get to know each other and be a little more comfortable together I will bring up some sort of topic for the group to discuss or chat about,” she explained.
She said that occasionally the girls participating in group will even bring their own questions or ideas for the day’s discussion, which adds a layer of excitement to the sessions. “The object is to give them a safe space to voice their opinions and thoughts because they actually do have really good thoughts, and just giving them a safe space with some guided conversational points can really help,” Allen said.
As successful as the group dynamic was, though, Allen knew that the Hope Center would need to do more. “But one of the big things that we figured out is we can get girls to come through the door, but most of the girls that we want to reach probably won’t come through our door unless they’re here for a pregnancy test,” she added.
The Center focused on social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, exploring the ways that they could connect and reach students in an environment where they would feel comfortable and safe diving into some heavy topics.
It made Allen wonder: What could be accomplished if the Family Hope Center started producing digital content—like videos—that could serve as a living reference guide for teens struggling with those topics discussed in group?
Allen took to the high school in Geneva with a camera. “We asked kids to ask us questions about self-worth and healthy relationships,” she recounted. “We got over 100 great questions about both, and then we just went on making these videos to answer all the questions.”
And with that, the Courageous Beauty YouTube Channel was born.
“The cool thing is that we are getting some interaction, and what we did is created an anonymous question forum online, and we link it to every YouTube video. We link it to all of our social media platforms. So girls can ask questions, submit questions, and we will answer them either on YouTube or any other media that we choose to use,” Allen said.
It has given the Hope Center an opportunity to have some important conversations about life in the digital space, too—conversations that likely would not have been happening if they didn’t venture into the digital video space.
For Allen, the goal is still to foster real, living relationships, but providing information online is a start. “They still want to talk to someone; they still want to have a personal contact. So, yes, it’s good to have this information online. But it’s not fully closing the gap,” she said. “We want to be able to reach them online, but we still want to get them to come and have a personal relationship with us. We’re seeing some really healthy dialogue happen, and some of it is starting online, and that’s really reassuring with programming like this.”
The biggest win, in Allen’s mind, is seeing the content take off. The first time she saw multiple questions in the queue was an exciting moment for her and the organization. “I was like, ‘Ah! That’s exciting!’ and I probably squealed and jumped around the room a little bit,” Allen quipped.
It’s part of the real-life digital gap that is getting closed in the non-profit world. She hopes that more agencies see what has worked for the Hope Center and try their own versions of it. “Jump online. It’s important, very important,” she said. “We need to be joining that very real conversation that’s happening online. That’s how we reach the people who need us most.”