Making a Difference: Creating a “PATH” to Economic Development

During the November 2011 “Indiana Rural Summit” at Indiana State University’s Terre
Haute campus, the university’s Steven Pontius listed the major threats to Indiana’s rural communities. “Our rural communities are losing their young people,” Dr. Pontius said. “We must promote entrepreneurship and attract employers to Indiana’s rural places.”

He also raised concern that the high birthrate and rampant alcohol and drug abuse among
rural teens are a detriment to the economic development of rural communities, as well as larger cities. You need look no further than Indiana’s list of food stamp recipients and local homeless shelters to know that teen pregnancy and substance abuse are leading causes of poverty in Indiana.

A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH Inc.) is a nonprofit organization that has served teens and their families for almost 20 years, providing classroom instruction and assemblies for middle schools and high schools, mentoring programs, and other services throughout Northwest Indiana. “We work with teens and ‘tweens’ to help them set goals for life, then help them to avoid making unhealthy choices that would prevent them from reaching their goals,” says Kevin Feldman, program coordinator for PATH.

Paula is a young lady who participated in a PATH program in her eighth-grade classroom. Like most teens, Paula was feeling pressure from others her age – the pressure to experiment with alcohol, drugs and sex. PATH partnered with Paula’s school to conduct a series of interactive workshops. Here is Paula in her own words:

“Your presentations were very interesting and dealt with real-life situations. I felt that I actually got something from the lessons you have taught me. Before this presentation, I felt as if I was expected to have sex. Peer pressure is very difficult at this stage in life. Thankfully, this presentation saved me from a terrible mistake. Thank you again for taking the time to change our lives!”

As Paula declares, her life was changed!

“Planned Potential” is a PATH program that targets rural areas of Northwest Indiana, providing innovative curricula to middle-school children offering solutions for healthy decision-making, and conveying the potential consequences for unhealthy choices relating to sex before marriage, tobacco, alcohol and drug use, as well as bullying. “PATH is helping to prevent poverty and create a better climate for economic development by encouraging young people to make the healthy choices that can lead to fulfilling and productive lives,” Feldman says.

In both urban and rural areas, PATH is in schools providing a two-day program and teen assemblies for students. PATH also provides adult and peer mentoring programs, in which teens regularly meet to discuss life’s challenges and collaborate to find ways to overcome them. The teens also have fun by engaging in a wide variety of other activities. In addition, PATH offers training for both educators and parents to more effectively work with teens and tweens.

Previously, PATH has been able to reach approximately 25,000 teens per year. With the continued rise in the transmission of STDs among teens, along with the more recent and growing use of synthetic cocaine, also known as “bath salts,” and the introduction of “cyber-bullying,” PATH must reach even more teens and tweens now and in years to come. PATH must raise more money to meet the growing need for its services. And you can help by becoming a “Ten for Teens” partner.

As a “Ten for Teens” partner, you will be supporting PATH’s work with a gift of $10 a month charged to your credit card or debited from your checking account. Knowing that your gift will be coming every month will help PATH in becoming more sustainable, and assist the nonprofit in its program planning. Even more important, your regular giving will help to keep teens and tweens on a healthy and safe path. Visit for more information, or call (219/548-8783 for more information.

Kevin Feldman is the program coordinator for A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH), where he coordinates the development of curriculum and in-school programs and assists in creating awareness for PATH and its services. You can reach Kevin at [email protected]

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