By Madisen Keavy

STOCKTON (CBS13) — Raising Youth Resilience is a leadership and mentoring organization for at-risk youth in Stockton, and now, the leadership team is calling on the community to expand their work.

Raising Youth Resilience was founded to address the needs of at-risk youth and to develop solutions to the circumstances they face like suspension, truancy, and academics.

The organization is in contract with the Stockton Unified School District on seven campuses throughout the district, K-12, but those contracts end in May and June 2022. Already, Raising Youth Resilience President John Norman Sr. said the organization is fast outpacing the district’s funding.

“We’ve outgrown the budget, and we have to continue serving because that need is so big. the only way to do that is to get additional funding,” said Norman. 

Right now, there are 30 students who regularly meet with school site leaders through the program. These individuals have comprehensive plans to provide support in and out of school.

The school sites include Bush Elementary, Chavez High School, Edison High School, Stagg High School, Madison Elementary School, Franklin High School, and Hamilton Middle School. In total, SUSD provides $260,000 to RYR each year, split across each school site.

Since the nonprofit started, Norman said, they’ve grown. There is a leadership team that include Student Advocates, Site Coordinators, and Mentors who are available 24/7.

The organization’s ultimate goal, according to Norman, is to provide one-on-one tutoring and an off-school campus site to meet, like a community center. That growth will require more money, Norman said, and that will likely come through donations.

“We know our kids need to get an education, but who’s going to walk that path with them?” said Norman. 

The RYR Community Center is a work-in-progress, right now. It’s located on Weber Ave., in Stockton, next to The RAZR, a barbershop. The barbershop’s owner, Otis White, shared the space with Norman after learning about his vision to give youth in Stockton, and beyond, a safe place with resources.

“Why not me being a barber why not help guide these kids the right way that’s going to help influence these kids,” said White. 

It’s community partnerships, like the one between this barbershop and RYR, that Norman wants to build on.

A teen in the program, who is a freshman at Chavez High School, said the real-world job experience he gets at the barbershop alongside the support he receives at school from his Raising Youth Resilience mentor, “makes it easier to be a teenager.”

“I’m in foster care right now, it’s hard for me, I’m still trying to learn the ropes,” said Leandre Jordan. 

Jordan, called “Pee-Wee” as a nickname by White, works at the barbershop sweeping hair afterschool. White said he’s watched as Jordan learned the value of a dollar earned, and bought a bicycle with his earnings.

“Showing them hey you can be a productive member of society. How are you going to make a difference? How are you going to make a change?” said White. 

Jordan said he helped with the first construction in the community center, ripping up the tile floor so it can be replaced. He’s excited about the plans in the space and said he wants other teens to have the same resources he does.

Contracts with SUSD could be renewed, according to Norman, but he views this as opportunity to expand RYR’s mission beyond Stockton. Right now, he added, a meeting is in the works between SUSD and RYR leaders, but no date has been set.