A parent of Shawnee Mission North grads has recently launched a new organization to provide after-school programming and emotional support for teens.
Geared specifically for SM North students, Tyler’s House KC has a mission to provide a space for after school as well as homework help, evening meals, creative arts programming, life skills development and mentorship. The organization had its first meeting in November.
Cori Hastings, a mother of three SM North graduates, serves as founder and executive director of the organization. As an active member of the SM North community, she hopes they can provide healing, emotional support and connections for students by means of creative arts programming.
Hastings had accompanied on piano for the SM North choir for many years; during that time, she met the choral director Juli O’Mealey-Simmons, who now serves as president of the organization’s board.
“We were right there with those kids, (and) just getting to school that day was a struggle for them,” Hastings said of students she met. “We would just see evidence of need, mostly emotional support I would say more than anything. I just felt like these kids need someone to come alongside and give them a hand up.”
‘Blown away by the encouragement’
Hastings said she’s “blown away by the encouragement” they’ve received from the community.
“I honestly believe that gathering the troops is not going to be difficult in this area,” she said. “Everybody is very receptive and very invested in the students and how they can help.”
Jeremy Higgins, SM North principal, said they are “excited” about the potential of after-school opportunities through Tyler’s House KC.
“We see it as a positive that Tyler’s House could be a place where students can go after school that is supervised by trusting adults, that offers a snack (or) meal, that offers activities that the students may be interested in, and that (as their mission says) accepts and supports all students,” Higgins said.
Hastings said she named the organization Tyler’s House KC to commemorate the son of one of her best friends. Tyler had had some medical issues when he was born and died at 10 years old.
“I don’t want his family to feel like there was nothing beautiful that came from that experience,” Hastings said. “Especially from living through that whole ordeal and knowing firsthand what trauma is, I feel like there are a lot of students up there, at North especially, that can benefit from what I’ve gone through. I can share from a place of knowing.”
Tyler’s House is working through the process to become a nonprofit. In the meantime, the organization is raising funds to acquire a space, preferably within walking distance of SM North. Hastings said they are also in need of people to serve the various functions of a nonprofit, in legal and accounting, as well as advisory board members who can guide them.
“Our first goal is really to start building a community of people, and getting people invested in what it would mean to have a foundation like this to get involved in,” Hastings said. “I see it more than just helping the students; I see it helping the community.”