In the Community

ACYR on a mission to ensure access to education

Arizona Center for Youth Resources provides access to educational programs for 16 to 24-year-olds who are not in school.

PHOENIX, Ariz. (STN) – For almost 50 years, there’s been a Phoenix-based organization dedicated to helping young adults facing a variety of social barriers become self-sufficient.

“We are focused on serving what is known as ‘opportunity youth,’ individuals ages 16 to 24 that are not in school and not working,” said ACYR CEO Sharlet Barnett. “This demographic has formerly been known as at-risk youth.”

According to the mission statement on their website, the Arizona Center for Youth Resources (ACYR) specializes in providing the “academic, vocational, personal, and social skills” young adults need to become contributing members of their communities.

For ACYR, this starts with getting an education.

“A lot of times the individuals we’re working with have dropped out one or more times from school,” Barnett said. “It’s our job to help them figure out why that happened. So, in the onboarding process, we’re talking and assessing the things that kept them from staying in school previously.”

That onboarding process is critical for ACYR to understand all of the circumstances and each of the needs of everyone they serve. Chair of the ACYR board Marvin Robinson calls this “wrap-around services.”

“When they come through the door of ACYR, we want to make sure a team member says, ‘Okay, let me take an assessment of all your needs and then make sure that we can get you down this path,’” he said.

Barnett explained those detailed assessments help inform a plan to best serve each person looking for help, even if that help doesn’t always include ACYR services.

“Our goal is to screen individuals into services, not keep them out of services,” she said. “Through that process, as we’re identifying things, we have partners internally and externally that we can refer them to the services they need that are going to support them. Whether it’s helping them pay for the light bill, or maybe it’s educational support. Maybe they need to be assessed so they can see if they have a disability.

“Whatever the case is, our goal is to help them figure out how they can stay in school and then find the correct educational option for them, whether that’s with ACYR or if we’re not a good fit for them, then we’re going to help them find the best fit.”

Robinson said that he has seen successes in the 10 years he’s been with ACYR, but has also seen an evolution in the people they are serving.

“We need to pay attention to the homelessness aspect of things as well,” he said. “If the young adults have to worry about where they’re going to shelter for the night, how are we going to get them into school?”

Barnett and Robinson agreed that the more people and organizations that find out about ACYR and its mission the more people they can eventually help.

“We keep hearing that we’re still kind of the best-kept secret that not everybody knows who we are,” Barnett said. “Our goal is to find as many collaborative partners as we possibly can to help us do the good work to either refer individuals to us or for us to refer to our young people too so that they can get the help they need.”

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