Every year, senior Pryor Fellows complete a project that will benefit their community as a culmination of the Pryor Leadership Studies Program at William Jewell College. The three year Pryor Leadership program entails a variety of learning experiences that promote growth and leadership skills for the students including the Outward Bound trip to the Everglades, a Vocational Internship and the Legacy project. This year, the Pryor Fellows have chosen to work with local Kansas City nonprofit Synergy Services’ Youth Resiliency Center to advocate for the homeless youth within the Kansas City community.
The three year program entails a multitude of learning experiences that develop growth and promote leadership skills. During the Pryor students’ senior year they must complete a legacy project and partner with an organization or cause they want to promote.
The Youth Resiliency Center provides resources for healing and growth for the homeless youth in the Kansas City community by offering opportunities and options to improve their quality of life. The Center works toward offering different therapeutic resources for the individuals they serve such as counseling, music, art and now exercise.
Samuel Sullivan, senior communications major and 2019 Pryor Fellow, spoke of how the Legacy project is directed at working towards advocation and providing therapeutic elements for these kids through outdoor exercise with an open green space that has different pieces of exercise equipment.
“Really, the idea is to get kids to go outside and soak up the sun. The sun has a lot of therapeutic properties to it. So does exercise – it helps self-esteem. Also, a big part of this is to help these youth socialize with one another so if one person wants to go work out outside and then another person might want to as well,” said Sullivan.
The 2019 Pryor class has worked through the year to raise money to be able to build this space at the Youth Resiliency center, and they have successfully reached their fundraising goal and will be going to the Center May 16 to build the exercise space.
Another element of their mission is to highlight the work that Synergy Services does and bring awareness to the problem of homeless youth in our community.
Kellsie Hermann, senior political science, international relations and French major and Pryor fellow, spoke about how youth homelessness is not often thought about in the traditional sense.
“It is interesting because we think of homeless youth as if they are living on the street or under a bridge, but in reality, it is [usually] kids getting kicked around from family member to family member or on friend’s couches,” said Hermann.
Sullivan spoke about a current theme of why kids may become homeless.
“One of the major things that we see today is that kids are getting kicked out of their house based on their certain views or based on their sexual orientation or things like that. So they are kicked out of their house and are on the streets looking for a place to crash for a little bit. Maybe in their car or at a friend’s house,” said Sullivan.
Hermann explains that youth homelessness is often an unspoken problem and these kids often cannot advocate for themselves.
“It is an invisible problem. You do not see these kids,” said Hermann.
To raise awareness for this, the 2019 Pryor Fellows had a panel event this past semester and hosted a child psychologist, a pediatric doctor, a domestic violence lawyer and the development manager of Synergy Services to speak and answer community questions over the problem they have witnessed over the years.
One prevalent aspect to the issue of youth homelessness is that this demographic is especially vulnerable to suicide and mental illnesses and additionally do not have those resources that many of us do. This is part of the problem that Synergy Services strives to address.
Hermann discussed how there was often some indecision for past Pryor classes to decide which project to pick, but for the 2019 Pryor class, the decision to work with Synergy Services was relatively simple.
“For us, it was pretty unanimous that we wanted to do Synergy Services,” said Hermann.
For the Pryor Fellows, the chance to use their skills to advocate and serve these youth who were not easily able to advocate for themselves was a meaningful opportunity.
The Legacy project is a way to culminate everything learned throughout the Pryor process. From Outward Bound to their internships for the Pryor program, the Pryor Fellows are pushed outside of their comfort zone to build their leadership skills. For Hermann, the Legacy project was an opportunity to use her skills for someone else.
“I have really enjoyed the Pryor Legacy project process the most because you have all these skills which you may or may not have gotten through Pryor process and it has been really cool to use the knowledge you have gained throughout the past four years for someone else instead of your own betterment,” said Hermann
If Jewell students would like to know more about the Legacy project’s work with Synergy Services or would like to attend the building day of the project May 16, they can contact any 2019 Pryor Fellow.