Youth find release in after school program


Meama Motley said her life changed thanks to a group of friends she would have never met without the local program she found within Directions for Youth and Families.

"I didn't know about it," said Motley of the program. "My mom brought me here when I was like 11 or 12 years old. I wasn't sure about it at first."

Directions for Youth and Families is a community program with a staff and more than 70 counselors available to listen to kids who need to talk. Members said they work to address the needs of families locally, including school concerns, sexual abuse, delinquency, family conflict, and drug use.

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Directions leaders said they are one of 12 agencies in the nation that piloted the Adverse Childhood Experiences tool to help people assess life trauma.

Program leaders have been quick to tell others they want to build healthier students and families, as well as a safer community.

Motley said her attitude quickly changed after she joined the dance team with Directions, one of many physical activities available to kids in the program. She described instantly feeling at home.

"When I'm mad I can go down and dance or whatever," Motley said. "Directions is why I begged my mom not to move. I like dancing with my friends here."

Donovan Coinchscales said his habits at school and at home changed after he became involved with the community program.

"After school, it is something better to do," Coinchscales said. "I love the place and I like to come here and dance."

Coinchscales said he agrees that dancing can be a release, and he hopes it can be an inspiration, too. He wants to motivate others to join after-school programs similar to the one in which he participates.

"They see me dance and they're like, 'hold on I know that guy. I like how he dances and I want to be just like him,'" Coinchscales said.

Directions for Youth and Families has two central Ohio locations to participate.