Kids at Hope – Moving Away From “Youth At Risk”

Kids at Hope
Locals present at Masters in Phoenix, AZ – including a 13 year old Manitowoc County youth!

Since October, 2015 Manitowoc County has been working to implement the cultural shift from “youth at risk” to “kids at hope.” The Kid’s at Hope vision is that every child is afforded the belief, guidance and encouragement that creates a sense of hope and optimism, supported by a course of action needed to experience success at life’s four major destinations: Home & Family, Education & Career, Community & Service, and Hobbies & Recreation. Hope is the capacity to visit your future, return to the present and prepare for the journey.

Implementation efforts have included several large community events with national presenters, a Town Hall meeting and in March, 2020 a two day Power of Hope event was held. The Power of Hope event was developed to replicate the Kids at Hope Masters Institute that is held yearly in Arizona. HOPE Talks (similar to a TED Talk with a hopeful theme) were given during the Power of Hope event by several local individuals who were willing to share their life stories related to hope. Kristin Lee and her then 11 year old son, Eric Lee presented a HOPE Talk and were chosen to attend the next Masters to share their story at a national level. Due to the pandemic, this opportunity was postponed but ultimately came to fruition on September27, 2022. Kristin and Eric spoke with courage, humor and poignancy in a presentation entitled “From Hopelessness to Hopefulness – A Story to Inspire.” Eric’s poem during his talk lead to a standing ovation. Kristin’s heartfelt story resulted in many participants needing to reach for tissues. Manitowoc County is lucky to have such amazing community members who are willing to share their story to benefit others not only in our community, but across the country. Kristin is not only an amazing parent to Eric, but she is an educator with the Manitowoc Public School District.

Stacy Ledvina, Social Work Supervisor at Manitowoc County Human Services presented a session entitled “How to Survive a Pandemic and Remain Hopeful – Best Practices” along with Tim Hardy from Yuma, AZ. Stacy Ledvina was also the recipient of a Hope Honor medal for her courage, passion, and vision to continue to keep hope alive.

Community participation in these events has been essential to embedding the Kids at Hope philosophy throughout Manitowoc County. Stakeholders that attended the Masters this year included Human Services staff and administration, the YMCA, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Manitowoc Public School District, Two Rivers Public School District, Northeast Wisconsin Area Health Education Center (NEWAHEC), CESA 7, and one Manitowoc Circuit Court Judge. 

Masters 2022 Hope Medal
Masters 2022 Eric

If you are interested in learning more about Kids at Hope, please contact Stacy Ledvina at

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