- Our Partners
Wyman’s mission is to enable teens from economically disadvantaged circumstances to lead successful lives and build strong communities. Wyman realizes this mission by providing a continuum of positive youth development programming.
By blending innovative curricula, positive adult supports, and community service learning, Wyman provides teens with opportunities for finding their meaning and purpose, developing healthy lifestyles, and sharing their successes with their communities. Founded in 1898 by a group of St. Louis citizens concerned about the plight of children living in the city’s core, Wyman initially started as a youth camp, providing children with nutritional food and healthy outdoor activities. Today, Wyman operates three mission-focused programs in St. Louis.
Beginning the summer before youth enter ninth grade, and over a six-year duration, the Teen Leadership Program employs a progressive, year-round approach that supports healthy teen development, leadership capacity, college access, and college persistence. Wyman also operates inspire STL, which provides high potential middle school scholars from underserved communities with rigorous academic preparation, support, placement into the region’s best high schools, coaching throughout high school, postsecondary access and success supports, and leadership development activities. Finally, Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program (TOP®) is a nationally replicated evidence-based prevention program that builds social and emotional skills and decreases risk behaviors, such as teen pregnancy, suspensions, and school failure.
St. Louis, MO
Number of Full-Time Staff
Teen Outreach Program
Life Skills and Service Learning
Low-income youth ages 14-19, primarily students of color
About the Program
The Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Challenge focused on Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program (TOP). TOP uses a combination of curriculum-guided group discussion and volunteer service learning to promote the positive development of adolescents. In addition to the programs in St. Louis, Wyman manages a network of 68 certified replication partners across the country that implement TOP in their own communities.
TOP has three main components:
1. Educational Peer Group Meetings - The replication model for TOP requires that educational peer group meetings occur on a weekly basis for up to an hour each, for a minimum of 25 meetings, over a nine-month period, most often following a regular school year schedule. Partners can structure the meetings in the best way to meet the needs of their teens. These meetings use lesson plans on team building, values clarification, healthy relationship skills, communication, goal setting, decision-making, and self-esteem from the TOP curriculum. Weekly meetings also give youth time to plan their community service learning projects. All group meetings are anchored in an experiential learning cycle that emphasizes the importance of reflecting, debriefing, and applying key learnings from the lesson.
2. Community Service Learning - Within the replication model, youth are engaged in 20 or more hours of community service learning over the course of the program year, with an emphasis on planning, acting, and reflecting on their efforts. Each TOP partner organization can develop service opportunities that are most engaging to their teens and ideally have teen choice, support, and buy-in for the service opportunities. Direct service—service where youth work directly with the people who are benefiting from their efforts—is considered the gold standard of service in terms of impact on the involved teens. Through the community service learning component of TOP, teens develop a sense of purpose, connectivity to their community, and an understanding of their ability to positively affect others.
3. Positive Adult Guidance and Support - Through training, adult program facilitators scaffold the program content to meet the needs of the youth, foster a pro-social group environment, demonstrate caring attitudes, and deliver program content in a values-neutral fashion. Several times a year, the youth have the opportunity to celebrate the work they have accomplished. These celebrations are typically an outing of some kind that allows the youth time to relax and have fun with their peers and supportive adults. In the Near South Side TOP club, several of the facilitators have been with the program for multiple years, resulting in strong, long-term relationships with the teens and their families.
Over the course of the program year, facilitators weave together the community service learning with the curriculum content of the weekly meetings for the particular group of youth with whom they’re working. They are free to sequence the activities and events within TOP accordingly and are able to draw on the resources (lesson activity plans, etc.) that are a part of the TOP curriculum.
Initial program activities include getting-to-know-you icebreakers and games to help all teens feel welcome and begin to form as a supportive group. Facilitators may use name games, group games, team-building activities, and other simple challenges that allow teens to get acquainted with each other, with TOP, and with their facilitators.
About the Staff
The relationship between the trained staff member and teen participants is the cornerstone of the TOP program. Wyman sets national standards for the training required of staff implementing TOP (Wyman’s TOP Training of Facilitators), and each partner can then add and adjust additional training content specific to their needs. Across the network, staff have a variety of educational backgrounds, often matched to the setting within which they are working. For example, in-school implementation may require full-time staff members to have master’s degrees, while a community-based or after-school program may have staff who are part-time college students or volunteers. Additional competencies required of facilitators include a passion for working with youth, a heightened self-awareness, and an authentic and genuine attitude toward developing relationships with youth.
At the SEL Challenge site, Wyman provides four levels of training:
Facilitators are trained in the TOP model (Training of Facilitators), including minimum requirements, structures, and content;
Facilitators attend a training called “Safeguarding Our Youth,” which provides team members with guidelines for effective, safe relationships and interactions with young people;
Facilitator Institutes provide a deeper understanding of adolescent brain development in relation to teen behavior, advanced content on the experiential learning cycle and multiple intelligences, and advanced training on community service learning; and
Facilitators are trained in Weikart Center’s Youth Work Methods, interactive and hands-on courses that provide participants with practical skills that are geared to improve the quality of interactions with youth.
Tips and Tools from Staff
To read more about how Wyman implements social and emotional learning, download their case narrative here.
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From Allison Williams, Sr. Vice President, Programs, Wyman