SCHOOL PATROL: On Point students spotlighted in billboard campaign
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Tyner Academy has a lot of programs under its roof, and one of its most successful is "On Point." There's no dancing involved, just some serious mentoring on the issues that matter most to teens. On Point is the Chattanooga-based organization that provides young people with the knowledge and support they need to abstain from risky behaviors.
One of its shining lights is Shaylind Nance, a senior at Tyner Academy. She has risen through the ranks, now on the On Point Teen Board, advising her younger peers on abstaining from sex, peer pressure, and "things that are harmful to your body, both physically and mentally," she said.
Nance joined the program in her freshman year, when it was called "Why Know." Since that time, it has branched out from its once-singular focus on abstinence to cover all types of lifestyle choices faced by adolescents. Mentors like Dena Smith visit Tyner, and other Tennessee Valley schools at least once a month, touching the lives of some 15,000 students. Yes, kids still get in trouble. But there are more success stories than you might think.
Smith, a 1990 graduate of Tyner, worked with children and teens in church settings before becoming an On Point counselor. She said, "There isn't that much difference between Tyner then and Tyner now. We needed help as kids then, and they need our help now. People outside the schools keep hearing the bad things that are going on, but thanks to On Point, there are a lot of kids making the right choices, being good role models and setting the right example."
Nance is one of Tyner's top students, with a 4.0 GPA and college acceptance letters from near and far. As an On Point Teen Board leader, she takes her responsibility as a role model seriously. "I appreciate people saying nice things about me," she said. "It makes me proud when they say I'm doing good in school, or they like the way I do things. But I want them to know I'm not perfect, I make mistakes too. I like to have fun and go to parties, but there are lines you don't cross, and that's the message I try to spread."
Recently On Point unveiled billboards throughout Chattanooga, featuring local students sharing their story. Shaylind Nance is smiling down from Brainerd Road, proud to be one of the faces of an organization in which she strongly believes.
"It's very rewarding to me and my family," she said. "I'm doing something with my life, and I enjoy sharing my story, especially with 9th graders. Sometimes they don't understand that the mistakes they make now can hurt them when they need to graduate. I'm really trying to reach out to them."
Admitting that she's sometimes recognized "as that girl on the billboards," she laughs about her newfound fame. "When I see myself on a billboard, I say oh my gosh that's me up there!" She's hoping that curious onlookers will log on to LiveOnPoint.org to learn about her story, and to find out about On Point's annual banquet on March 1 at the Convention and Trade Center.
"This community needs to get behind On Point and keep it strong," she said. "We have problems in our area now, but we have some good kids too, and On Point is encouraging them to do the right thing and make the right choices. I don't want to see that go away."