The Office on Children and Youth |



Lucky Duck Race Fundraiser a Success!

On Saturday, March 29th hundreds of people gathered at Massanutten Water Park to support the Office on Children & Youth and our annual Lucky Duck Race, a fundraiser where thousands of rubber ducks are sent down the lazy river in a race to the finish.


This weekend’s race was a complete success!  Thank you to all of our amazing supporters and community members who bought tickets and came out to the event.  With your help we were able to sell more than 2,300 duck tickets!  Your donations help support important youth services and programs in the community such as:

The Reading Road Show – Gus Bus: a mobile literacy program and bus that provides an opportunity for children and families in low-income communities to share story time, participate in a book exchange program, and build literacy skills.

The Migrant Education Program: provides supplemental instructional services and advocacy for highly mobile migrant children in order to help students reach challenging academic standards and graduate with a high school diploma or GED.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Provides positive youth development in middle and high schools in Harrisonburg, Page and Rockingham to prevent risky behaviors with our community’s youth.

Harrisonburg/Rockingham Youth Council: A youth-led community service group that empowers area youth to make healthy decisions and create a difference in their community.

A special thanks to all of our amazing sponsors who made this event possible, we couldn’t have done it without you!

Massanutten Water Park, Massanutten Resort, The V, Cargill, Digico, Farm Credit Country Mortgages, Daily News-Record, BotkinRose PLC, My Valley, WHSV3, Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union, The Valley’s FOX,  Massanutten Realty

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Students Report Back: TOP® in Action

Written by Page County High School TOP® students Mariana Comer, Heather Andrews, and Brittany Shook. The Photographs and projects reported below were entered into local Shout Out! photo contest, winning second and third place.


Untitled2Our FCCLA Chapter and TOP® Club at Page County High School recently held a “Hang Up Heart Disease” campaign to benefit the American Heart Association. Members held a Half-Court Shoot contest during halftime of our high school basketball game. For $1, fans took a chance at shooting a basket from half court. If they made the first shot, they could take a $50 prize, or take a chance at another basket. $100 was to be awarded for making the second half court shot. A local Tax Service sponsored the $100 prize. No one made 2 shots, so we awarded $50 to the person who made one half-court basket! We also sold sponsor hearts to fans for $1 each. We raised a total of $100 for the American Heart Association!

The Page County High School TOP® Club and FCCLA also carried out a “Cupcake Buffet” project to benefit the “Share Our Strength, No Kid Hungry” campaign. The No Kid Hungry campaign connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending childhood hunger a national priority.


Members made approximately 300 gourmet cupcakes to sell at our school. We sold out in just over 2.5 hours, raising $300 for Share Our Strength. Coming together for this great cause was a lot of fun! We had to use teamwork and problem solving skills in baking and icing all of the cupcakes. The students at our school gave us great feedback about each of the flavors and asked us to have another event. We are planning the next cupcake buffet, with the goal of making $500 for a PCHS student needing a kidney transplant

During November and December, we carried out a service project called, “Blessing Bags”. We wanted to help the homeless population have a better holiday. We used extreme couponing and solicited donations to gather personal care products, such as shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste, to create our “Blessing Bags” We prepared approximately 130 bags. They were delivered on Christmas Eve during a dinner at which our members helped serve. It turned out to be a blessing for us also to be part of this wonderful holiday celebration! Untitled7


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OCY Teen Health Fair

The Office on Children & Youth will hold our 16th annual Teen Health Fair on Wednesday, April 23rd and Thursday, April 24th at Turner Ashby and Spotswood High Schools. The central purpose of the fair is to provide area high school students with objective, accurate health information while exposing them to agencies and resources from the surrounding community. We are excited to engage over 1,500 students during the fair. Representatives from over thirty community organizations will be present providing health, wellness, and career information to area youth. Our diverse vendors and agencies provide insight and professional knowledge on a variety of health related topics including domestic violence, public safety, nutrition, teen pregnancy prevention, and mental and physical health. We are proud to be sponsored this year by the CCAA (Community Coalition on Alcohol Abuse), Aramark, Jimmy Johns, Cargill, and Dominos.  Interested in volunteering? Please contact Jamie Sherman by email, for any questions related to the event.

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March 29thth, 2014 at 4:00pm, Masanutten WaterPark

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We are excited to announce this year’s Lucky Duck Race Fundraiser, a fun and easy way to support the programming and work of OCY. How it works: Buy a Lucky Duck ticket, get $15  off your Massanutten WaterPark general admission pass and a chance to win huge prizes, including a chance at winning $25,000*!! Each ticket you purchase corresponds with a rubber Lucky Duck that will be sent down the Lazy River at Massanutten WaterPark. The first three Lucky Ducks to cross the finish line win great prizes. Bring the family the day of the event to enjoy your WaterPark discount, but there is no need to be present to win.

By purchasing a lucky duck ticket, you are supporting important programs like:

The Reading Road Show – Gus Bus:  a mobile literacy program and bus that provides an opportunity for children and families in low-income communities to share story time, participate in a book exchange program, and build literacy skills.

The Migrant Education Program: provides supplamental instructional services and advocacy for highly mobile migrant children in order to help studets reach challenging academic standards and graduate with a high school diploma or GED.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Provides positive youth development in middle and high schools in Harrisonburg, Page and Rockingham to prevent risky behaviors with our community’s youth.

Harrisonburg/Rockingham Youth Council: A youth-led community service group that empowers area youth to make healthy decisions and create a difference in their community.

Get your tickets soon!!! To purchase a ticket, or to volunteer to sell tickets, contact Jennifer Rea at or 540-568-2559.

*The first ten ducks that cross the finish line will be entered in an automated online system to match a preselected duck number and win $25,000.  A $25,000 winner is not guaranteed.

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OCY’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program implements Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®), a positive youth development program whose core component is Community Service Learning (CSL). CSL builds strong youth and provides valuable contributions to surrounding communities. Over the course of nine months youth participants choose and plan at least 20 hours of community service or community-oriented projects. Since starting our Harrisonburg, Rockingham and Page County TOP® clubs in September and October 2013, several groups have experienced a “Taste of Service.” These opportunities acquaint them with service and get them thinking about creating their own projects. Here are some highlights so far!

HHS members feeling good after their work with the Boys and Girls Club.

HHS members feeling good after their work with the Boys and Girls Club.

In October, two groups from Spotswood High School traveled to the New Community Project’s Sustainability House in Harrisonburg to help prepare their gardens for cold weather. The teens learned about the various programs there, and worked together with other volunteers to cover and protect young plants from the fall frost.


Spotswood members getting ready for their service work with New Community Project






Our Second Home Child Care Center group in Harrisonburg consisting of 6th and 7th graders walked to the Explore More Discovery Museum one brisk afternoon to help prepare for the annual downtown event, Halloween on the Square. They made 150 bracelet packets for the museum to distribute.

Two groups from East Rockingham High School cut, ironed, pinned and sewed tote bags for Peak View Elementary School children. The TOP® students put to use their blossoming sewing skills to help out youngsters in their own community!

This month, Harrisonburg/Rockingham Youth Council members have already planted trees at Brookside Park in Harrisonburg with help from The Natural Garden. They also planned and led a panel of local community volunteers and leaders to help them understand how youth can address local civic and community needs. Youth Council members will take what they learned from the panel and create their own community service activities.


Youth Council members after planting some tress at Brookside Park

An afterschool group from Harrisonburg High School recently spent time at the Boys and Girls Club at Spotswood Elementary School. They played with children there and helped them discuss bullying. Prior to going, the group researched the aims and objectives of the Boys and Girls club and identified what talents they personally brought (ex: good at basketball/soccer, have patience, experience with kids etc.) and were able to put those talents to use with the young people at Spotswood. It was lots of fun!

Last but not least, our Page County High School group raised $1,250 for breast cancer research that they will donate in person to the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center at UVA! To raise cancer awareness and raise these funds, 35 students and teachers signed up to dye their hair pink or shave their heads if they raised a certain amount of money. TOP® members said they “learned so much from this experience, especially how teamwork is essential to the success of this type of project.” This project named “Zero to Hero” will soon be highlighted in the Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® national newsletter.

Page County members raising money for cancer research.

Page County members raising money for cancer research.

Together these groups of teens and pre-teens have already contributed over 200 service hours to help communities around them. And they’ve only just begun! We’re excited to see what else our young people come up with the rest of the year!

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Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 2.42.10 PMAre you a high school student who wants to get involved in the community? Want to meet new people, have fun, and figure out what’s important to you?  Then the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council is the place to be!

Youth Council, a Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program®, is an outlet and space where youth plan and implement community service projects, have fun, and figure out how to make those hard decisions in life! Perhaps more than anything it’s a place where young people can build positive and caring relationships between peers and adults.

If you are interested in learning more about Youth Council come out to our annual Kickoff Picnic at Purcell Park on Thursday, September 26th at 6:00pm, shelter number 1. We will have games, free food, giveaways, and talk more about the Youth Council and ways for YOU to be involved.

Beginning October 3rd, we will meet EVERY Thursday from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Blue Ridge Hall in room 309 (across from Costco on University Blvd.).

Questions? Contact Josh Diamond at 540-568-2571 or at Find us on Facebook by searching Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council.

The Office on Children and Youth is a Certified Replication PYouthCouncil_poster2013kickoffYouthCouncil_poster2013kickoffartner of Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program ® (TOP®). TOP® is a comprehensive, evidence-based youth development strategy that promotes the positive development of adolescents through a combination of curriculum-guided group discussion and volunteer service learning.

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Save the Date!

Designer Handbag Bingo Fundraiser!


Mark your calendars October 19th for the annual OCY Designer Handbag Bingo fundraiser – featuring COACH, Dooney & Bourke, and Vera Bradley bags! We have beautiful, elegant bags this year and you don’t want to miss it! Join us for a fun evening in support of local youth and children’s programs! All proceeds support direct service programs of the Office on Children and Youth.

Where: Weyers Cave Community Center

When: Saturday, October 19th. Doors open at 3:00, games begin at 5:00

How much: Pre-sale tickets = $10 (for 1 card);Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 3.45.51 PM

Tickets at the door = $15 (for 1 card)

*Each person only needs one ticket. Additional bingo cards can be purchased at the door for $5 each or 5 cards for $20.

*Get your tickets early for special pre-sale only games and door prizes!

Thank you to our sponsors!

Major Event Sponsor – The Printing Express


First Bank and Trust



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Call 540-568-5814 or email Natalie Duda at for more information and to order tickets today. Interested in sponsoring a bag or the event? Contact Natalie.

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OCY Director Spotlight: Kim Hartzler-Weakley

This interview between Outreach and Development Specialist Josh Diamond and OCY Director Kim Hartzler-Weakley gives a glimpse of the history and growth of the programs here at OCY. They also discuss some of the personal and collective motivations and reasons for working with young people and children. Enjoy!

JD: You’ve been at OCY for a while and in various forms and now work as OCY’s director. Tell me about your history at OCY.

KHW: It’s funny; I remember when I was interviewed as the coordinator of Teen Pregnancy Prevention ten years ago and was asked what I want to do in the next 5-10 years; my answer was that I wanted to be the director of a non-profit, and in five years ended up being the director of OCY. I meet Jane Hubbell (previous director of OCY and recently retired associate director at IIHHS) during the interview and felt I could learn a lot from her. She was a strong female that I really wanted to work with. The nature of what we do made me want to take on challenges and Jane gave me the space and experience to develop my leadership. I was ready for a new challenge when Jane was ready to move on so I became the director of OCY.  At the time I was the Program Director for Teen Pregnancy Prevention and knew a lot about all the programs here so it was a good fit for me. Our team culture helped me to get to know all the programs—I had even driven the gus bus once a week for  a few months when we were short on staff.

I love working here and have so much passion for what we do. My philosophy centers around youth as assets and the things they can–and already do–contribute to our community and society as a whole. Our work is to help them realize that, and connect them with other youth in a positive way. I do not think we need to wait for them to develop or go to college to contribute to the community. When people asked what I do, I’d say I work with teens and people would respond, “oh sorry,” but for me it’s great. I love to work with teens. I was talking with my mom once about reading books on the Gus Bus and how that made me nervous, but I can talk easily with teens.

JD: How have things changed since your beginnings at OCY?

KHW: I started here 10 years ago, when OCY was still in a cottage. It was myself, Jane Hubbell, and one other staff person. We focused on teen pregnancy prevention (me) as well as a tobacco-free campaign. Not long after I started working we received a grant that made the Gus Bus possible and increased our staff. Then we moved to Blue Ridge Hall under JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services (IIHHS) and administered Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Gus Bus, and the Tobacco-free campaign. It was around that time when the Migrant Education Program decided they needed someone to work with the management of their grant and came to be under OCY. After we settled into this building we were awarded a 5-year TPP grant and added more staff. Shortly after this we were able to bring in Youth Suicide Prevention.  At one time we had a Smart Beginnings Academy and there was a direct service there. Now I just help oversee Smart Beginnings but they are not directly related to the work of OCY.

Youth Council (YC) originally started as a sort of youth think tank in 1998, partly to address issues coming out of the Youth Data Survey. People came to talk with YC to get their opinions on their work with youth. It was revived and taken in a slightly different direction after the community assessment in 2007 affirmed a need for youth leadership and voice. They are working to develop leadership by assigning members roles and responsibilities and carrying out service projects.  I heard recently that a YC member gave a PowerPoint presentation on a possible service project; this warmed my heart, and seemed like a good direction to be going. It is through YC we got involved with Strong Families Great Youth Coalition.

With new grants to support Teen Pregnancy Prevention and the Gus Bus we are now a staff of 16.

JD: What sort of work environment do you strive to create here at OCY?

KHW: The first thing is to cultivate a team culture. I think people need to know that their voice is valued and everyone has input. I like to laugh, and think that laughing and having fun should be an allowable thing in your work environment. Working with youth can be hard; individual and environmental change is slow with kids so there needs to be a space where people can share and have a sense of humor about their work. Everyone who works here is passionate about what they do. OCY has very dedicated people who take their work home with them. I always want people to feel that they can talk to me or whomever they need to so they can voice frustration.

Our team is open to do things in new ways and to always be improving ourselves and the services we provide. There is the freedom to try new projects and design something different and new that we can work on together, which is important.

JD: Where does your passion for working with youth come from? How have you cultivated and sustained this passion?

KHW: I had very encouraging family members that supported me and helped keep me on track so I could do well in college and beyond.  Not every kid has that, and I personally want to put things and structures in place to help balance that out and offer support to kids who do not have it from their families. We need youth in the community to know that adults care about them and their success. My educational background is in public health where I focused on adolescent health. There are so many learned behaviors that happen during adolescence and if we can jump in and be there to give skills that help avoid creating bad behaviors, those youth can grow into healthy adulthood.

Something that keeps me going is getting visits from teens I’ve worked with in the past that just stop by to say hi sometimes. A former Youth Council member was here a couple weeks ago looking to apply to jobs. The fact that she still comes by to visit me makes me feel like the work we do is important. Just her visit is enough for me to know that the connections we make are important. She has been out of school for a couple of years and still stops by to seek my guidance. Other students from Youth Council who stop by to say hello or leave little notes on my door make me happy. These are my connections, but we all have these connections and are making an impact and difference in young people’s lives.

JD: Why prioritize youth and children’s programming, research, and services?

KHW: To me, if the community had money to do anything, we should put it into children. This goes along with where my passion comes from. Prevention is the key to everything. There is research that shows that if kids aren’t on grade level reading by the age of 3 they are more likely to be in jail later in life. There are monetary savings for intervention and prevention. While we need programs that teach adults life skills, if we focus on children and youth we could eliminate a lot of the social programs needed later in life. If we cut anything, it should not be for youth. It’s cheesy to say, but children are the future.

JD: What’s needed to create and build healthy youth communities? And what is OCY’s role in building those healthy communities?

KHW: We need adults who are willing to put in time to volunteer and care for youth. Youth Council is in the evening. We make things easy for youth to participate, rather than convenient for adults. Some of the things we work on, say the rain garden project for example, we do because it was in a busy park where people can see youth doing good things for the community.  The best thing about that project was when people walked by and saw young people doing something good and said “good job!” We need people in the community that can say “good job” to kids. You can see how that pat-on-the-back affects kids. Some of our role is facilitating that process; helping kids figure out what they want to do, put that out there, and helping adults see those good works so that kids feel affirmed and admired. Positive adult relationships are key. When we have so many single-family houses in our community I think that’s what youth need–more positive adult relationships.  We need to be able to talk about difficult topics like pregnancy, sex, drugs, and violence with youth and we need to help families and parents talk about this as well.

There are no bad kids. They may do bad things, but I think that’s the difference. I remember an interaction with a prevoius Youth Council member–before I developed a relationship with him—when I had to go to my office to get something and he didn’t believe I was going to trust him with the things I left with him. He said to me “I’m a bad person, you’re going to leave this stuff with me?” and I said “good people do bad things all the time.” When I came back he agreed that he didn’t have to be defined by the bad things he’s done.  That’s related to being a parent too; my grandmother once said to me, don’t ever tell him (my son) that he is a bad boy, he may do bad things, but those things don’t define him.
JD: What are some of the organizational challenges you see in working with youth and children?

KHW: Money is always a challenge. Trying to find money that fits what we want to do rather than changing what we want to do to fit what funds are available can be difficult. We need to be able to pay people to carryout the programming that we provide. I think sometimes our work can be challenging to the community. Some of the things that we do may be considered taboo or controversial (Teen Pregnancy Prevention or Migrant Education for example). It’s a challenge to do what needs to be done if the community is resistant.

Another challenge is turnover. some people start out working with one of our programs, and through their time here learn they want to do something else. That’s a challenge; having good people leave to move on to other things, and then having to find new people with a similar skill set to fill their position.

A big organizational challenge is getting people and funders who have the money to understand that prevention is important. We are an outcome driven society and sometimes it is difficult to articulate our outcomes. It’s hard to measure prevention; it is a gradual process that happens over time.

JD: Is there any accomplishment or work of the OCY that you are particularly proud of?

KHW: I think within each program there are things I’m very proud of. Take the Gus Bus for example, at one point we were struggling day to day and were down to one staff member, but kept a presence until we got the 21st Century grant and have been able to do so much more. To have four Gus staff –which is more than we have ever had—and have both buses out every night of the week is a great thing.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention, where my passion and expertise lie, was an organization of one (me), and we didn’t even have supply money. We had a large five-year federal grant that ended as we were finally having some doors open. We were looking for a way to be able to reach thousands of kids and now we have that with our new funding where we will have programming (Teen Outreach Program ® and Draw the Line/Respect the Line) in practically every school. This is awesome to me.

JD: What does the future hold for OCY? What are you looking forward to?

KHW: Lot’s of things really. I’m looking forward to seeing how TOP ® is going to work for kids who have the chance to be part of it for multiple years. We have more staff, multi-year funding for several of the programs, and I am excited to see the difference we are going to have over time. I am interested in looking into mental health programs for youth that help encourage healthy mental behaviors and habits. Most kids when you ask about mental health, they say “what?” I’m excited about continuing Youth Council and excited to see where those youth end up in the future. What are some of the current YC members going to be involved with? I’m excited for that.

Our message has been getting out into the community as well through Facebook and our website which I think has been great. I am thankful for the staff. People really keep me going. Even though I am no longer out in schools and working directly with the children and youth that we serve, I hear stories from people and that’s important to me—to see staff faces when they are excited about something. We are really lucky to have a team of people that genuinely care about what they do. It’s more than just a job to us.

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By Josh Diamond, Youth Council Coordinator

On June 6th, youth workers, parents, teachers, community members, and youth came out to a performance and discussion aimed at addressing teen pregnancy in our area. The event was held at the Lucy F. Simms Center and was a collaboration between the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council, OCY’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, Healthy Communities Council Teen Pregnancy Prevention Action Team, and JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services.

Youth experiences of the issue were centered and expressed trough poetry written and performed by Youth Council member-leaders. Youth Council created their poetry in the few months preceding the event, tackling issues of teen pregnancy and it’s effect on young people. The member-leaders performed their poems both individually and collectively, giving audience members a powerful glance into the struggles of teen parenting and the choices and consequences of teen sex and pregnancy.

These powerful performances anchored the dialogue to follow where participants addressed the issue.  Laura Leischner, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Specialist “really enjoyed listening to the young people’s poetry during the program. Their words were deeply touching and overflowing with raw emotion. It reminded me that everyone has their own experiences with the issue of teen pregnancy and we need to continue the conversation around it; this event was an excellent start.”

Youth Council member-leaders played a crucial role in defining the topics of the event and in giving their perspective throughout. The space was a unique one that fostered genuine dialogue between youth close to the issue of teen pregnancy and adults hoping to make a difference in lowering local teen pregnancy rates.

Participants moved between dialogue sessions examining community-based efforts to prevent teen pregnancy, socio-cultural norms and expectations around teen pregnancy, messages received by youth about sex and pregnancy, as well as others.  Thanks to all who came out for the event to engage and support young people taking leadership on an issue that affects the entire community.

Participating Youth Council members after performing their poetry.

Participating Youth Council members after performing their poetry.

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A Community Conversation and Performance to Raise Awareness of Teen Pregnancy

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.27.40 AMJoin us for youth poetry performances, youth-led, and intergenerational dialogue around teen pregnancy issues and prevention in our area. The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services and the Healthy Community Council Teen Pregnancy Prevention Action Team invite you to a performance and dialogue around teen pregnancy in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

Do you work with young people? Are you a young person interested in teen pregnancy prevention and learning more about the issue? Come to this exciting event and engage the conversation on what can be done to prevent teen pregnancy in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. After a short youth performance on the issue community members and youth will break into smaller groups to discuss issues such as: socio-cultural norms around sex education and pregnancy prevention, local and state policy, how to talk about sex with youth and adults, and school culture around sex education. The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council will facilitate a youth only session addressing the difficulties and opportunities for youth in addressing teen pregnancy and youth sex education. Bring young people!

 When: June 6th, from 6:00-8:30pm

Where: Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center

For more information contact Josh at or 540-568-2571.

We cannot wait to see you there!

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