QUINCY -- Quincy Teen Reach has reformed Akiira Wilson's life.
The 14-year-old has been participating in the after-school program since the fifth grade. At the prodding of Teen Reach director Dennis Williams, Wilson checked it out.
Students who attend Teen Reach reflect on their school day, work on homework and receive a meal.
"When you're done with your homework, you help the younger kids," Wilson said. "I think it's helpful for everybody. It's mentoring, and we all have something to do."
Wilson's grades have improved as a result of her attendance, but the broader impact of her time at Teen Reach has been on her attitude.
"I've been around more people than I would have otherwise," she said. "Now, I'm more open to everybody. I'm happier to be around people, and I've gained a lot more friends by going to Teen Reach."
She has no intention of stepping away from the program anytime soon. After senior year, when she is no longer considered a Teen Reach kid, she plans to volunteer there.
"It helps you, in every way," she said, noting that volunteering was never something she considered before she began attending Teen Reach.
After high school, she plans to study architecture in college.
Wilson is not the only member of her family to benefit from a United Way partner program such as Teen Reach. Her mother, Carvetta Wilson, recently told The Herald-Whig about the difference RSVP's Shoe Fund has made in the lives of her children. With shoe vouchers distributed through the Shoe Fund, Carvetta receives new shoes for her three youngest children. The money saved in the process allows, among other things, for Akiira to participate in basketball at Quincy High School.
"She wouldn't be able to do that otherwise," Williams said. "These are huge life changes being made."
The United Way of Adams County was instrumental in helping to continue programs such as Teen Reach through the financial turmoil of the Illinois budget impasse. The United Way is able to support its partner agencies through its annual campaign. The United Way is now at about 40 percent of its $1.1 million goal for its annual campaign.
Founded in 1937, the United Way is celebrating its 80th year. Since then, nearly 50 different agencies have been members of United Way and received part of the almost $40 million it has allocated over the years.