REACH turns around teen lives by connecting troubled youths with mentors

These days, things are pretty happy around the Ramsey house. But two years ago, the situation was very different.

Back then, Stephanie Ramsey, daughter of Eric and Cindy, was having a rough time in school.

"I failed every class my freshman year because I was suffering with depression and social anxiety," Stephanie says.

Her mom adds, "She was really struggling to fit in and find her place."

The family turned to a program at the school Stephanie attends, Hutchinson High School, called REACH. It meets as an elective class during the school day -- but it's not a class per se.

Referring to Stephanie, REACH's program coordinator, Chad Harlander, says, "There was not a connection being made in what was going on at home and what was going on at school."

"We have young people trying to figure out this world," he adds. "It's tough. These kids needs support."

REACH offers kids help with school work, character building, and family goals.

Another REACH participant, Katlyn Mayer, says, "It's kind of like a home for me. I like to come here and I feel like myself."

The program started in Hutchinson, but it's now in 11 other schools across the state, and many more are asking about it. The day we dropped by, there were visitors from Austin and Otter Tail.

Michelle Olson of Otter Tail Family Services says, "I think that so many kids feel like they don't belong and they need to feel that when they come to school they have a safe place."

REACH has people raising money for the program and scholarships.

One of those fundraisers, Jason Werowinski, says, "You can't buy this off a shelf. This program works because it's home grown."

Just ask Stephanie, who now has a 3.7 GPA, the highest in the Reach program at Hutchinson high.

Asked whether Reach saved her, Stephanie says, "Oh, I'd probably not be in school because at 16 you can drop out and I probably would have."

The REACH program has a great track record for getting kids graduated. Last year most of the 44 kids at Hutchinson who were set to graduate did, and more than half of those kids say they would've dropped out if they didn't have Reach in their lives.

Another big fan is Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway.

"Chad [Harlander] and his REACH program are positively affecting the lives of so many of our Minnesota youth," Greenway says. "I have been lucky enough to host a REACH football camp for five years with Chad, and his dedication to the program is undeniable. All the proceeds of the camp go back to Chad and his program and it is one of my favorite events that we do through our foundation."

"The REACH program is something that every Minnesota school should look into getting because the positive outcomes from unfortunate situations is astounding," Greenway adds.

For more information about REACH, check out the program's website here.

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