Community Writer — YES to YOUTH and Preparing to Bloom

community writer

As a community writer, I’m happy to share my article about YES to YOUTH and “Preparing to Bloom Now and in the Future,” published in The Woodlands City Lifestyle. Read all about the journey to healing by at-risk youth in the Montgomery County, Texas area.


Article by Melanie Saxton

Photography Provided

Originally published in The Woodlands City Lifestyle

It’s been a busy summer for the children and their families at YES to YOUTH – Montgomery County Youth Services. Group sessions and peer counseling combined with fishing trips, art activities, sporting events, and visits with furry friends help bring healing to kids in crisis. The children do what makes sense to them, from journaling to communicating their emotions to the necessary family work in a safe space.

The mission is a proactive approach to supporting the physical and mental well-being of at-risk children. “YES to YOUTH provides crisis intervention and counseling services to children and families from all walks of life and backgrounds. We offer a shelter—a safe and nurturing home—for displaced youth as well,” says Michele Kooken, Chief Executive Officer, YES to YOUTH.

A Chance to Bloom

Whether a child faces emotional struggles, behavioral issues, or homelessness, YES to YOUTH is a much-needed community resource. Services are offered at no cost because every life matters.
Zack Richmond, past Chairman of the Board, notes that a flower, even in a crack in the pavement, will grow if it’s watered. “Out of hardships come opportunities to bloom,” he says.

Many parents didn’t grow up in the online world of cyberbullying. They may not be aware of what kids are exposed to on apps and social platforms that influence and drive behavior. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” says Richmond. “Awareness is everything.”

He notes that YES to YOUTH is often the first responder at local school districts and that the free counseling services make a huge difference. There are many success stories of youth growing into successful adults with opportunities to become nurses, teachers, chefs, engineers, or the next CEO.

“When you donate and support YES to YOUTH, you’re making a difference. You’re helping families in crisis. You’re keeping kids off the streets and giving them a future,” says Richmond.

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Let’s Talk About It

Shelby Chaddick, Director of Counseling, YES to YOUTH, often shares a quote by clinical psychologist Dr. Russell Barkley: “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways.”

Children have endured a lot in the past couple of years, notably changes in school routines and isolation from friends. The more commonplace stressors such as divorce, the passing of a grandparent, or moving to a new area can exacerbate feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anger and result in acting out.

Although mental health has not always been a mainstream topic, the pandemic opened up healthy discussions among the public. “Talking about the struggles that our youth experience gives the community opportunities to help,” says Kooken.

For every 970 individuals in Montgomery County, there is only one mental health provider. The national average is 330 to one. “These are our neighbors. These are our kids,” says Kooken. “This is why YES to YOUTH is such an important resource for the most vulnerable in our area. Supporting the Yes for Youth mission helps the organization save lives by treating not just the symptoms but the causes.”

The Bloom Gala

This year’s YES to YOUTH Gala is slated for August 12th, right around the corner. There is no better theme than “bloom.” This one word captures the whole purpose of this annual gathering—to reach more children in need and help them thrive.

The Bloom Gala will honor Kristin L. Young and The Howard Hughes Corporation. Andrea Aertker, Tiffany Baker, Kristin English, and Bethany Shrewsberry are the 2023 Gala Chairs. See our sidebar for ticket information and other ways to connect.

YES to YOUTH – Montgomery County Youth Services provides a bridge from challenges today to achievements tomorrow.

Follow along on the organization’s website and social media

Purchase tickets for the Bloom Gala


Aug 12, 6:00 PM

The Woodlands Waterway Marriott

(Black Tie optional)



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