KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The walk of life can take people in many different directions. Public schools in Wyandotte County are using a new program that aims to keep young people on the proper path.
Some life lessons don’t fit into a classroom schedule, no matter how thorough or well-intended teachers may be. That’s where creators of the180 Degrees Program come in.
Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools leaders are training instructors, or facilitators, as 180 Founder Dean Renfrow calls them, to work with at-risk students during afterschool hours.
Renfrow’s program teaches basic life skills to students, such as financial literacy and leadership skills.
Renfrow says he’s used the 180 Degrees Program in over 100 school districts. KCK School leaders were so impressed by it, they requested, and were awarded a $60,000 dollar grant from the Unifed Government of Wyandotte County to pay for it.
“The potential is there in every child,” Renfrow said. “We believe in every child. Sometimes, they don’t have the tools that are necessary nor are they equipped with the knowledge to be successful.”
Pastor Jonas Hayes introduced the school district to 180 Degrees Project. He’s the founder of Heartland 180, a non-profit group that has used Renfrow’s principles on a smaller scale.
“At this facilitator training, we’re seeing teachers from Kansas City, Kansas public schools,” Hayes said. “We’re seeing government and youth court and churches all come together to be trained.”
Rarla Ridgnal is one of them. Her resume includes time working with juvenile offenders in the Wyandotte County correctional system.
“Stay out of trouble,” Ridgnal said. “Make good decisions and choices. Not letting peer pressure affect them just to please their friends and get in trouble following the crowd.”
Students will enter the program on January 20th, which happens to be the day after Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. Pastor Hayes says that’s no coincidence, since the ultimate goal of the program is to build better people.
The 180 Degrees Program offers plans for students of various grade levels, ranging from fourth grade all the way to college-aged adults.