Local Man's Program Helps Students Succeed in High School

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RENO, Nev. -- It can be a scary transition going from high school to adulthood, but before students can graduate, they have to pass proficiency exams and their classes.

One local man is helping Washoe County students succeed in high school with his program that gives them the necessary tools they'll need after graduation.

Nathan Hallmark has big dreams after he graduates in June. He wants to be a firefighters, a therapist and a writer. His biggest problem now is trying to decide which dream he wants to pursue, but that wasn't the case three years ago; graduation never even crossed his mind.

"Being the goofball, the one who's always in trouble, you know not really carrying about my life as much," he said.

When senior year came around, he quickly realized he had to get his act together or he'd fall behind.

"If ten years down the road, I have a family and I can't support them because of what I did now, people aren't going to want to hire someone who goofs off and cracks jokes."

Through Dr. Wynn's Youth Empowered to Succeed (Y.E.S) Program, Hallmark realized he was capable of doing much more; he cracked down to focus on his future.

"If you don't teach them to care for themselves, what good is your grade gonna do for them?" Dr. Wynn, program director said. "We try to teach them that it's a reflection of you not your teacher, not the work, not the class, but you."

Many students struggle figuring out plans after graduation, but this program helps them create goals and steps to accomplish them.

"We became like a family. Instead of mostly thinking like 'oh we're in trouble." it's mainly like 'we're trying to help you,'" Hallmark said.

Dr. Wynn says education opens many doors for students and breaks down mental blocks.

"A lot of people's minds are closed off and they don't have any answers. 'I don't know what to do because all I know is I didn't pass this test and I'm a failure here,' and they think it's the end of the world," he said.

Through written exercises and class dialogue, the students are shown all the different skills they need and options they have after high school, from financial literacy, to landing a first job, to getting into college.

"Before you can really help a kid you have to ask themselves the right questions...what has happened to you, what's stopping you, what are some things that you like, what are things that you don't like," Dr. Wynn said. "It's not just a program; it's a lifestyle because if you don't look toward yourself or look toward the future, you'll never make it."

Currently, the Y.E.S program is at Spanish Springs and Sparks high school, Washoe Inspire and Dilworth Middle School.

Dr. Wynn says he hopes to expand his program to all the schools in Washoe County.