At Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, teens from some of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods learn about work, discipline and life through a program called Tipping The Scale, an adolescent intervention program launched in the late 1990s by the hospital and a local nonprofit and sustained by more than $440,000 in funding from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.
“These are kids from low-income neighborhoods without support systems and resources, many of whom are raising themselves,” said Davy Parrish, CEO of The Bridge of Northeast Florida and one of the founders of Tipping the Scale. “It is a quantum leap for them to go from their world in the inner city to the state of the art environment at the hospital.”
Through extensive mentoring, exposure to real-life work situations and summer job opportunities, the Tipping the Scale students receive personal support, academic encouragement and support and preparation for college and/or career.
Since the program began in 1999, 816 youth have participated in the program at Baptist and 98% have completed high school. All who have graduated have gone on to college or career, said Lynn Sherman, Director of Community Health for Baptist.
Today, Tipping The Scale is providing the foundation for a broader summer employment program for young people in Jacksonville.
Tipping the Scale combines two strategies — mentoring during the school year and paid jobs during the summer. Hospital staff serve as mentors and are carefully coached in advance. As a result, mentoring relationships can span three or more years, and there is very low attrition.
The change in the teens is remarkable:
“There’s a transformation,” Parrish said. “There is new confidence, a new sense of what is out there for them. There is a quiet pride — they don’t flaunt it. There is excitement about the money and what is going to happen over the summer. And there is concern about logistics — transportation and lunches – and a lot of work on time management.”