Changing the Narrative
For several years, Lanitra Barringer led a local organization called College Success Initiative, known for its college bus tour, which introduced local high school students to Texas colleges, including historically black colleges and universities. Barringer was a first-generation college student herself and knew the value of establishing goals beyond high school graduation.
In the process, however, Barringer realized that a college dream can only go so far without parental support. True generational change begins at home. “That’s the missing piece,” she says. “You have to get the parents on the same page.”
A long-time educator with Amarillo Independent School District, Barringer knew it was time to shift her focus. So in 2018, she transformed the successful bus tour concept into a new organization called Youth Success Project (YSP), focusing on the entire family. Today, the organization uses one-on-one mentoring and monthly meals to engage entire family units in college preparatory experiences. Community leaders teach participants about the value of college or technical degrees. Men and women in the business world act as examples of entrepreneurship. Military veterans walk with high school graduates through the enlistment process.
Regardless of the direction, YSP wants to show families and students the value of taking the next step after high school. “Our vision is to formulate a path for families to find long-term financial stability,” Barringer says. “That might be college, but it might be learning a trade or looking at entrepreneurship. When you can see change with whoever is head of the family, it can be a domino effect.”
In other words, a high school student is most likely to think about attending Amarillo College, West Texas A&M University, or getting vocational training if a parent is driving the bus. “When you change the narrative as a family, parents lead and students follow,” she says.
Currently, YSP is serving 17 participating families, including students from all four Amarillo ISD high schools as well as Canyon High School. The program is open to students throughout the Amarillo and Canyon communities.
Volunteers are essential to the program. “We have 22 volunteers and they are all professionals leading by example,” Barringer says. YSP is always looking for minority male mentors, as well as local businesses and organizations willing to donate a monthly meal, which takes place at Hillside Amarillo North Grand Campus.
To learn more about the organization, get involved as a volunteer or participate as a family, visit youthsuccessproject.org.