Kansas City organization helps young girls struggling with pover - KCTV5

Kansas City organization helps young girls struggling with poverty, teen pregnancy

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KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

A Wyandotte County non-profit organization is working closely with KCK schools in order to keep young girls from falling victim to pressures surrounding violence, abusive relationships and drugs.

Young Women on The Move holds conventions, weekly meetings and makes school visits to keep young, at-risk youth from becoming a statistic.

Mary Beth Gentry is the founder of the group and says girls are most at risk of going down the wrong path during their adolescent years. That’s why she focuses her work toward mentoring girls ages 11-19.

“Whether you’re inner-city, or the suburbs, or rural ... adolescence ... is a really critical time,” Gentry said.

She began working with Kansas City, KS and Wyandotte County youth after realizing just how shocking the statistics are. Wyandotte County ranks 94th out of 101 counties in Kansas for poverty and violent crime.

In 2014, teen pregnancies in the county were four times the national rate. Forty-seven percent of kids are in single-parent households. Ninety-five percent of children in KCK schools are on free or reduced lunch.

“I think our program truly is a prevention program,” Gentry explained.

She recently organized a convention called Day of the Girl.

Hundreds of at-risk youth came together to talk about empowerment, confidence and saying no to pressures so many teenagers face. Those same themes are incorporated into the group’s weekly meetings.

Yulissa Banuelos is a junior at Sumner Academy and says she does not know where she would be without the group.

“It’s definitely pushing us more towards a good path cause I’ve met a lot of girls who were going toward a rough path ... and once they got in here they improved,” Banuelos said.

The best part of the group, according to Banuelos, is the confidence she’s gained.

“I learned to really love myself and be confident in myself," she said.

Banuelos hopes to become and engineer or a lawyer.

Gentry said instilling such dreams is proof the group is succeeding.

“What happens during this time is really, really important,” she said. “We’re working with them to change from the inside out – to develop good character and believe in themselves and their worth.”

The group is looking for more girls to join and volunteers to help out. You can visit youngwomenonthemove.org or call Gentry at 913-744-9139.

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