NEWARK – She’s only been the director of YES Club for a couple of days, but Bethanne Leffel-Ployhar has been answering a lot of questions from the teens who attend the after-school program.
Some of them are simple, such as “What’s your favorite animal?” and “What’s your favorite shape?”
Others involve her goals for the program and some of the things she’s hoping to focus on.
She’s told the students she wants to help the program grow while connecting teens with the resources they need to be successful.
“Already, I’m very passionate and connected to this place,” she said. “I got goose bumps on my first day.”
An Ohio native, Leffel-Ployhar graduated from Licking Valley High School in 1988. She studied social work at the University of Montana before earning a master’s degree in social work at Ohio State University.
During her college days, she worked as a counselor and assistant director of a summer camp and after-school program.
“Children have always been a passion of mine,” she said.
After becoming a licensed independent social worker, she spent time working in an emergency rooms doing psychological evaluations, then worked as a child therapist. She also started a private practice with a specialty in helping foster and adopted children transition into forever families.
Taking the job at YES Club gave her the opportunity to return to her home community and connect with teens as well as local leaders, she said.
A program of Mental Health America of Licking County, YES Club is an after-school program for students ages 11 to 18. Staff members prioritize education, community services and a family atmosphere.
Leffel-Ployhar replaces director Vee Hottle, who recently retired after 22 years at YES.
“I’m excited to get out in the community and make those alliances,” she said.
Penny Sitler, executive director of MHA, said Leffel-Ployhar’s background was a good fit for the program and its goals.
“Her energy is evident and her skill set is just spot on,” Sitler said.
MHA has increased its efforts to focus on the mental health of children and teens, and Leffel-Ployhar’s experiences in that field will enhance the services YES Club is able to provide, Sitler said.
“We’ve had this fabulous program, but even a great program can grow and change and improve,” Sitler said.
One of Leffel-Ployhar’s goals is to introduce new programming based around YES for Solar, a community effort to install solar panels on the clubhouse’s roof.
She’s also hoping to find alternative funding sources for the program and get YES Club accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
When it comes to programming, she’d like to see more of a focus on life skills and outdoor activities. She’d also like to see more YES Club members taking advantage of some of MHA’s other resources, such as its Girls In Progress and Teen Support Group programs.
One of her biggest priorities is getting to know each member well so she can help connect them with the resources they need. She’s hoping to expand the program’s reach beyond Newark to all the other county school districts.
A resident of Granville with three children in school, Leffel-Ployhar said she can’t wait to start giving back to her home community.
“It’s kind of a dream I’ve always had,” she said. “This is something that I’ve always wanted to do.”
Found in The Newark Advocate August 29, 2015