AZ Giving & Leading: Kids at Hope

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Kids at Hope is a Phoenix-based national organization that believes all children are capable of success and has programs to foster that success. The programs work through schools to support the success of kids. Kenna Hough, Executive Director of Training and Programs for Kids at Hope, will tell us more about the organization and its goals.

Ted Simons: Tonight's look at Arizona giving and leading focuses on kids at hope. It's an organization that emphasizes the belief that all children can be successful. Kenna Hough is the executive director of training and programs for Kids at Hope. It's good to have you here.

Kenna Hough: Thank you it's good to be here.

Ted Simons: Kids at hope. Sounds like a program that applies to organizations, schools, what?

Kenna Hough: Well, first of all, it's not a program. It's a belief system. Kids at hope is a not for profit that's designed to work with schools, youth development organizations, boys and girls clubs, create agriculture based on the belief that all children are capable of success no exceptions.

Ted Simons: Shouldn't that culture be out there anyway?

Kenna Hough: It really should. This is the thing your grandma told you ought to be in place but a lot of times bureaucracy gets in the way of culture and so kids at hope created a strategic cultural framework that we introduce through training and work with adults to put the emphasis back where it should be on the culture.

Ted Simons: Indeed, a belief system supported by a cultural strategy through workshops, seminars, these sorts of things?

Kenna Hough: Exactly, workshops, seminars, not to be redundant. Professional development. We work with the adults who work with kids.

Ted Simons: So if I go to a workshop or a seminar or class, what do I learn? I think all kids should succeed, too, but where's the disconnect?

Kenna Hough: The disconnect is in what is it kids need to be successful? It was created from a research study done with ASU, trying to answer a simple question, why do some kids succeed while others fail? Three things need to be in place. We call them universal truths. They're universally applied to all children. So you would learn about those three universal truths, children need to be surrounded by adults who believe they can succeed, which does sound like a no brainer but it can be hard to put into practice. All children, no exceptions, regardless of background, who your mama is or isn't, etc. Then you would learn about what we call universal truth number two, which is that kids need meaningful sustainable connections with caring adults and we define what those relationships look like. And finally, you would learn about the importance of kids being able to articulate their future, a concept we call mental time travel, the ability to visit your future mentally, return to the present and prepare for that future. Kind of visualization if you will.

Ted Simons: That all makes sense. The idea of connecting, though, with a parent that cares and -- or an adult. What happens if the parents are just not -- they're out to lunch and you're the teacher and you want to make that connection. How do you do that?

Kenna Hough: It's actually quite simple. We believe there are four different types of relationships kids need to have and one is having a strong anchor parent and not all kids have that but they also need to be surrounded by adults who care, teacher, a baseball coach. They also need adults who have high expectations, which means that they believe in that child oftentimes more than the child believes in themselves. And they also need to be surrounded by adults who give them opportunities to succeed. You know it might be the neighbor, it might be grandma, a teacher, a clergyman. We all play that role.

Ted Simons: What about the kid that has some sort of behavioral problem, the teacher, we'll keep it in the classroom here. The teacher connects with the kid, can even envision a future and help the kid envision that future but the kid lashes out, very difficult. We all know about these kinds of kids in class. What do you do with that little person?

Kenna Hough: We don't address those specific kinds of issues like a child who has specific behavioral issues. But what we do address is helping the adults learn to be treasure hunters, which means that adult is going to continue to seek the solution for that child, rather than throwing their hands up in the air and saying I'm done, I've given it all I can give. They're going to continue to look and if they're not the person to make a difference in that child's life, they're going to go out and find somebody who can and who can help them address what those issues are.

Ted Simons: It sounds like don't give up.

Kenna Hough: Exactly.

Ted Simons: Is a major factor here.

Kenna Hough: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Is there room, time enough for hope in a classroom? We'll keep it in the classroom here, when there's so much emphasis on testing, on getting core studies. People are complaining there's not time for athletics and recess, what about just simple hope?

Kenna Hough: There has to be time for hope because those other things aren't going to happen without hope being there. You know there's a big emphasis right now on common core standards and there should be. But we also have to look at what we now call common care standards. Kids aren't going to learn what you need them to learn if they're not connected to you. And so that time has to be made and we're not talking about hours and hours spent making connections with kids.

Ted Simons: Last question, a national organization based here in Phoenix. What kind of response are you getting?

Kenna Hough: We're getting a tremendous response. Kids at hope actually started in 2000. And here we are in 2013 and we continue to grow exponentially. We're closing in on the halfway mark as far as states across the U.S. that we're involved with and we're also involved in the entire province of Alberta, Canada. We're continuing to grow and grow all the time. It's very exciting.

Ted Simons: It sure is and it's a good story and it's good to have you on the program. Thank you so much for joining us.

Kenna Hough: Thank you.

Kenna Hough:Training and Programs for Kids at Hope, Executive Director

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