Bryan Yan, 17, of Mason, Ohio, a senior at St. Xavier High School, formed a nonprofit organization that recruits volunteers to provide academic and other kinds of assistance to local children who are not being raised by their biological parents. Because Bryan’s mother teaches at an inner-city school, he has been very aware that some students live in foster or group homes because their parents are addicted to opioids. “Mom worries about her students even after work,” he said. “She tells me frequently how much her students need and deserve support.” So, as a freshman in high school, Bryan began volunteering at a ministry serving people who need help. But when he realized how many children were affected by the opioid epidemic, he decided to organize an effort specifically to address that crisis.
Over the past three years, Bryan has recruited more than 50 volunteers from local high schools, the University of Cincinnati, companies and organizations to lend individualized support once a week to kids living with non-biological parents. They provide academic assistance, mentoring and extracurricular activities at various locations, including libraries, group homes and food banks. More than 800 kids have benefited so far, and of those who have received academic help, over 80 percent have significantly improved their school grades. Bryan’s organization also has sponsored two youth symposia to connect young people to mental health services, job opportunities, college admissions personnel, GED programs and other resources; organized an annual summer camp for 88 elementary and middle school students in need; and distributed printed materials at city events to raise awareness of the impact of drug addiction on children. “I truly believe all children should have the opportunities to achieve their fullest potential regardless of family circumstances,” said Bryan.