The Chamber Young Professionals are giving back to the youth in the community through a pair of initiatives aimed at making the children feel empowered and creating a desire for self-development.
CYP has implemented the Guys & Ties program at Burns Middle School, along with Project Empower at Girls Inc. CYP Chair Ellen Ebelhar and Vice Chair Jake Boswell said the two programs were born out of wanting to engage children in the community and teach them about the possibilities beyond school.
“My hope from the start was to have mentors in the school, letting each student know that someone believes in them and there is no limit to what they can achieve regardless of their economic status or specific circumstances,” Boswell said of the Guys & Ties program.
Boswell said they have worked with BMS since 2018 to discuss important topics that the teachers may not touch on in class. For example, the group of 8th-graders has learned how to tie a tie, create a budget, replace a tire, develop soft skills for high school, and more.
Boswell said the CYP members have seen the students grow throughout the year, and the program allows the children to express the highs and lows of their lives.
“In some sessions, the young men can’t wait to tell us about the most recent football game at the school, and other times they want to confide in us something that’s tough happening at home. Just making eye contact and listening is what the entire program is all about,” Boswell said.
BMS Family Resource Youth Service Center Coordinator Carolina Campos Glover said she has seen the program affect eash student in their own way. She said it’s a unique opportunity for the students to build the connections with CYP and see representation from all parts of the community.
“What I like about this is that they all look different. We don’t have all white guys; we have a mixture. We have Black, white, Hispanic, Asian and that is good for our kids to see diversity. Especially because Burns Middle is hosting our Newcomers program, so we have a variety of background in our school right now,” Campos Glover said.
Ebelhar said Project Empower operates similarly, combining educational lessons with a push for self-empowerment among young girls in the community. She said the partnership with Girls Inc. was important because the organization works to foster the girls’ strength.
“Girls Inc. knows the wants and needs of young women better than we do because they work with them every day. CYP had a good idea for Project Empower, but we knew we needed to partner with an expert on young women to really make an impact,” Ebelhar said.
The program allows women within the community to come speak about what it’s like being a female in a male-dominated field. Guests have included Sarah Murphy Ford in the contracting industry, and City Commissioner Pam Smith-Wright.
After their sessions, students can ask questions and complete an activity.
“The students continue to surprise us,” Ebelhar said. “Each session we have, the students have a new, insightful opinion or question that encourages us to look at situations differently. We come into the sessions thinking we are teaching them but leave the session having also been taught something by the students,” she said.
Ashley Agada, Girls Inc. Owensboro Christian Church Campus Manager, said she’s grateful for the program.
“It’s called Project Empower, and it’s doing that,” she said. “It’s empowering these girls to be leaders. They already have it in them, and now they’re bringing all of that out so they can be impactful, and so they can have their own voice.”