EmberHope Youthville provides education, stability for children in foster care

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NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) – KSN is partnering with EmberHope Youthville in Newton for the second year of “Wrapping It Up for Hope” on Saturday.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., bring your unwrapped Christmas gifts to Barnes and Noble in Bradley Fair and the KSN crew will wrap your gifts for a donation to EmberHope Youthville.

EmberHope Youthville provides foster care, adoption, residential programs and counseling for individuals and families that are at-risk. Their campus in Newton is where girls in Kansas foster care live, learn and gain new experiences they might not otherwise have.

Opportunity Academy serves as the on-campus school for the EmberHope Youthville girls as well as an alternative school for Newton USD 373 students. Principal Tyler Swalley helps students both inside the school and out.

Swalley and his wife are foster parents to three children.

“My wife started it, but it’s been an amazing experience, and we’ve really enjoyed it,” Swalley said.

He’s enjoyed watching the kids’ grades improve from before they were in his family’s care to now. The consistency provided by a stable environment helps the children to thrive. The constant switching of schools while in foster care can impact grades, focus and ultimately whether or not they graduate.

Swalley says one in four foster kids in the western half of Kansas go on to graduate high school.

The classrooms at Opportunity Academy are trauma-informed and structured to help those who struggle to trust adults. With a 10 student to one teacher and one aide ratio, it is the hope that the students build connections that last with staff. The students don’t move from teacher to teacher like a typical school setting.

“We want to create kind of a family atmosphere in the classrooms where they really take ownership and feel special to be in the individual classroom that they’re in,” Swalley said.

Funds donated Saturday from the Wrapping It Up For Hope event will go toward helping the students with extracurricular experiences, like trips to the zoo or the pool.

It’s in those trips, Swalley said, the children learn to socialize and have experiences a child, not in foster care would have.

“It helps them have as close to a childhood as you would want your own kid to have,” Swalley said.

Wrapping It Up For Hope is on Saturday, November 30 at Barnes and Noble (Wichita) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bring unwrapped gifts for the KSN team to wrap for you for a donation to EmberHope Youthville.

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