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Community service is one of the focus areas for a brand-new program at West County.

The Teen Outreach Program – or TOP – has never been done before at West County. When Linda Ragsdale from the St. Francois County Health Department asked West County Elementary School Counselor Becky Yount if any staff members would be interested in starting a TOP program in the district, Joan Hill and Stacy McEntire eagerly accepted the challenge. They attended a three-day training in Jefferson City this past summer.

The pair started a sixth-grade program, which is the first year students are eligible to join. Next year, the two plan to add a seventh and eighth grade group. The program can continue even into high school.

TOP is a nationally recognized Positive Youth Development program designed to build educational success, life and leadership skills, and healthy behaviors and relationships. TOP achieves outcomes for teens with engaging curriculum lessons, interactive group discussions and meaningful community service learning projects.

It is a nine-month program which helps transform teens and change communities. Its focus is to use a positive youth development approach to empower teens with the necessary skills to avoid risky behaviors and develop into healthy adults.

Hill has been a teacher for 28 years with 25 of those years at West County. McEntire has also taught at West County for 25 years.

“We have weekly lessons,” said McEntire, “and we focus on community service learning.”

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She said they have worked with students to set up, serve and clean up at the elementary’s movie night and fall festival; cleaned up classrooms; and made treat bags for teachers. They are currently making tie blankets for the local women’s shelter.

“We have plans to make desserts for the women’s shelter Thanksgiving dinner,” she said, “and to ring the bell for Caring Communities, participate in random acts of kindness and a few more things still in the works.”

McEntire said she and Hill love working with the students at TOP.

“All of our kids work hard and enjoy the time spent together,” she said.

Students learn through the weekly lessons, enjoy snacks and have a chance at winning prizes in the drawings held at each meeting.

McEntire said this year’s fifth-grade students are already looking forward to participating in TOP at middle school next year.

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