Photos by Hillary Ehlen and special to Fargo Monthly
Featured photo: Youthworks alumna Aridasee Tisland
With help from the Impact Foundation, we’ve broken up the numerous Fargo-Moorhead organizations into 12 categories. With more than 100 charitable organizations in the Fargo-Moorhead area alone, we know that you’ll come across an organization that tug at your heartstrings. Within the listings of local charities we’ve published, the organizations are split into subcategories that will make it easy for your charitable spirit to find its match. Here is our spotlight on the Youth nonprofits, featuring Youthworks.
317 S. University Dr., Fargo
“It was like it was meant for me to walk into Youthworks, because that is when my life completely changed.”
Aridasee Tisland came to Youthworks in February 2018, looking to get back on her feet. Youthworks is an organization that helps youth who are struggling with homelessness, may have run away from home or may have been trafficked. Founded in Bismarck in 1986 and then in Fargo in 1991, they provide case management, independent living support and mentorship to at-risk youth. According to Aridasee, “[Youthworks] helps people know where to go. It helps them have hope that there’s something out there that can get them through what they’re going through.”
At age 18, Aridasee was living in and out of her car. After a visit to a local public library, she found resources to help guide her how to get the basic needs she was missing. After looking up as many related topics as she could think of, she consulted lists of resources, called around and eventually found Youthworks.
“Making that phone call and getting over to Youthworks… it was a lot of pressure because you had to say what was going on in order to get help. And sometimes talking about it is really hard, but I got in there and said what I needed. You gotta just say what you need, ’cause no one is going to know unless you tell them,” said Aridasee. When she called Youthworks, Transitional Living Program (TLP) coordinator Sheyenne Puetz answered and told her to come on in. Sheyenne told her that she had a meeting, but she was going to slide it off, so Aridasee was free to come on by. Once Aridasee arrived, Sheyenne met with her and discussed all her potential options on what she could choose to do.
Aridasee noted that even if you don’t know exactly what you need, Youthworks listens and helps you find your path and the resources you need. “Youthworks is kind of the front door, and once you enter the front door, they have all these types of rooms of resources you can go in,” she said. Through her experience with Youthworks, Aridasee said they gave her the resources to achieve success and guided her, but they let her lead. She described the relationship as them saying to her, “‘Here I am, giving you this project to do. I’ve shown you all the pieces to the project, and I’m going to stand here and watch you put them all together.'”
She said, “It’s not like they are trying to fix you; they are trying to help you fix what’s going on. Never did they ever make me feel like I was a problem. Like I was the one that was struggling. It was more like, ‘This is your situation. Now how do we change it? How do we make it better?” Aridasee knew that her situation wasn’t permanent, but she also knew she needed to find that resource that would help her get back up. She said, “I feel like it was fate that I walked into YouthWorks, that specific organization. I think it was fate that they got to where they are, so that when I got there, they could help me the way that they did.”
Now that Aridasee is on her feet, housed and back in college, she serves on the advisory board at Youthworks. She serves as a youth voice, showing those who come to the organization the firsthand experiences she went through. In this role, she can say to those looking for help, “I understand. This is what I think would help you, because that would have helped me.”
The relationships she made and the impact of the hard work she saw all around her while she was receiving assistance from Youthworks inspired Aridasee to want to continue her relationship with them. “I saw the huge, huge impact that they were making on the different people who were walking in and out of their office the same time that I was. I saw the impact of the services and the relationships that they built with the many different youth and walked in and out,” she said, “I saw what they were doing and how they had helped me and how hard they worked to help me, and I just wanted to be a part of something like that to once I got on my feet.”
“It’s not about what therapy or theory we use; it’s all about relationships that impacts people’s lives,” said project manager Ethan Hoepfner.
Ethan is passionate about his work, having begun working at Youthworks when he was only 15. In high school, he mentored middle schoolers, and then in college, he worked in MIRACORPS before graduating from the University of Mary with a major in social work. “The legacy I want to leave is a legacy of relationships. The greatest thing about Youthworks is it’s all about relationships,” he said.
While the physical services that Youthworks provide are crucial to their mission, Ethan noted that it’s largely about how people can change other people’s lives. He shared a story from when he first started peer mentoring and was paired with an individual who went on to have a lifelong struggle with addiction, run-ins with law enforcement, was in and out of probation and eventually, was sharing a jail cell with someone who was imprisoned for attempted murder. Throughout those years, Ethan always had his back and never gave up on giving him support. Now, he’s three years in recovery, back in college, living on his own and has a full-time job. Ethan said, “He’ll tell you that throughout every single therapy and addiction counseling service he went through throughout the county, the greatest support network that he had was Youthworks. He said, ‘Ultimately, you could have given up on me 50 times, but you didn’t. I gave up on myself when you didn’t.'”
A lot of the youth that they serve have adverse childhood experiences, including experiences of neglect and abuse, may that be emotional, physical or sexual. Ethan noted that adverse childhood experiences can affect long term health conditions and threaten brain development, thus causing erratic behavior. “Knowing that that erratic behavior is less about the kid and more about a symptom of what’s happened in their life, we have to have this mindset that ultimately, maybe they don’t have control of their behavior. Maybe they just need a consistent support system in their life,” Ethan said. He also said that what they do know about trauma in adverse childhood experiences is that it just takes one consistent person in someone’s life to change their life.
Youthworks connects these at-risk youth with positive influences like Aridasee or Ethan and shows them what they have the potential to become. With Youthworks, you can’t pinpoint one singular service they provide. From keeping youth from being homeless, to feeding kids that otherwise would go hungry, to guiding young-adults into identifying their strengths in unlikely places, there’s not one blanket statement that can cover all that Youthworks does. However, it can be said that whatever a kid’s goal is, that is Youthwork‘s goal. Beyond meeting that basic need, Youthworks helps youth reach these goals, all while creating long-term relationships that make their successes that much stronger.
“I’ve had to do things that a typical 19 year old wouldn’t normally experience, but Youthworks never made me feel like I was different. They made me feel like I was extraordinary,” Aridasee shared. “That’s the big impact they’ve had on me. From getting me a place to stay, to getting me food on my table, to giving me that encouragement. Here I am today, standing here talking to you about how it’s no longer my journey, but it’s my story.”
From Marketing & Community Relations Director Kari Flaagan
At Youthworks, we help youth who are struggling with homelessness, youth who may have run away from home or youth who may have been trafficked. We have two offices located in Fargo and Bismarck. We provide support services to youth and their families to meet goals for strong, healthy relationships. Through our programs, we are able to keep most kids in their own home and out of the juvenile justice system.
Giving Hearts Day‘s Impact
The dollars we raise on Giving Hearts Day impact our organization throughout the whole year. We are able to continue to provide counseling, food, clothing, shelter and other basic necessities through donations given on Giving Hearts Day. Every dollar that we raise on Giving Hearts Day can be used as match money for our federal grants.
Donate food, diapers, hygiene items, warm socks, winter gear and gently used clothing to our drop-in facility. Our drop-in program allows youth ages 12-22 to come and meet with a social worker and get essential every day items.
To be able to hire more case aids, mentors and support staff to help clients meet their basic needs and help with independent living skills. Also to be able to provide a safe and supportive place for our most vulnerable and LGBTQIA youth.
To eventually have a Youthworks “campus” that would be able to hold all of our programs including an out of school suspension classroom, emergency youth shelter, drop-in center, transitional living apartments and recreational space for the youth we serve in the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo communities.
What Would Be Lost In The Community Without You?
Without Youthworks, there would be no specialized services for runaway, homeless and trafficked youth. The community would lose a safe place for youth in crisis to go to receive shelter, professional counseling and family services.
- $55 provides 22 meals
- $105 provides essential transportation
- $255 provides five nights of shelter
More Youth Organizations in the FM Area
“About 70 kids are waiting to be matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister, and the wait can be up to two years. Bigs spend about four hours a month with their Little and make a huge difference just by hanging out. Male volunteers especially are needed.” – Sherri Hashbarger, Director of Marketing and Communications – The Village Family Service Center
“Ask any one of our site leaders or mentors, and they can share stories of the growth they see firsthand during the course of the program. We always say that if we can positively impact the self-esteem of one girl, we have done our job.” – Missy Heilman, Founder and Executive Director
“In 2017, the Northern Lights Council was ranked #6 out of over 260 councils nationwide for excellence in program delivery, membership growth, unit service, leadership and governance and finance; critical components to the robust and sustainable service to our community and the youth and families we serve.” – Dale D. Musgrave, Senior Development Director
“In the world of a child with a critical illness, they hear the ‘no’ a lot. No, they can’t go home. No, they can’t play sports and run around with their friends. No, you’re not done fighting the disease. But Make-A-Wish comes in and asks these kids to dream big, and we say ‘yes.'” – Tori Schrantz, Communications and Outreach Coordinator
“Outdoor Adventure Foundation provides hunting, fishing and other adventures for youths diagnosed with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. We also provide the adventures for disabled veterans that are wheelchair bound or lost a limb due to combat. Outdoor Adventure Foundation is an all-volunteer organization making big dreams come true.” – Brian Solum, President
“With 40 percent of youth aging out of foster care experiencing homelessness by age 21 in North Dakota, PATH’s Independent Living Program is crucial for setting youth up for success to prevent homelessness and poverty as they venture into adulthood.” -Sonja Stang, Director of Community Relations
“We are fortunate to have a wide range of support for our mission from the community, the nation and the world at large. uCodeGirl has enjoyed receiving donations from all seven continents, including Antarctica, for two years in a row.” – Betty Gronneberg, Founder
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