The Shelby County Relative Caregiver Program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center held its 3rd annual Young Men and Women of Distinction Autumn Ball Saturday, October 15. Thirty-seven young men and young ladies put on formal attire and danced the night away in celebration of their successes. The attire was provided. This year, 19 boys and 18 girls were presented.
The Shelby County Relative Caregiver Program assists families in the Memphis area by providing support for children whose parents are unable to care for them. It is a part of the UTHSC Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities and funded through the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. While relatives, which include grandparents, aunts, uncles or other extended family members, may be willing to care for these children, doing so may be difficult due to financial limitations or the need for other services. One of the biggest services the program offers is its mentoring programs — G.E.M.S. (Girls Empowered and Mentored for Success) and Empowering Young Males for Success — which focus on community service, personal responsibility, cultural diversity, current issues, personal growth, and the importance of education.
Through respecting what is unique and special within each family, providing accurate, easy-to-follow information about existing resources available to families, filling in the gap where services are not available and providing emergency/start-up financial assistance, the Relative Caregiver Program seeks to further strengthen the caregivers’ abilities to maintain supportive and stable environments for children.
“This year, our focus continued to be on the children and helping them be the best they can be through the events and services provided throughout the mentoring program,” said program administrator Teresa English. “Self-awareness, love and respect for themselves, are key elements they need to be successful. We want them to know that although they each have a story for why they are in relative placement, that their story is something that happened to them and it doesn’t define who they are. We want them to know that they can be successful and overcome life’s challenges.”
The dance took place from 5-8 p.m. in the O.D. Larry Dining Hall of the Student-Alumni Center at UTHSC.