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New faces drive youth initiative forward

There have been a few changes in Hastings organizations lately. The Hastings Police Department, the United Way of Hastings and the Ministerial Association and Hastings United Methodist Church each losing leaders, and that has left some people wondering about the fate of another organization: Helping Kids Succeed - The Hastings Way.

Helping Kids Succeed is a collaborative effort involving all the above organizations and others. Paul Schell, Tara Donohue Weiss and John Mitchem were all heavily involved in Helping Kids Succeed. As all three have recently gone through job-related transitions in Hastings, several people have wondered what will happen to the youth initiative. While some questioned if the project would die, it appears that others have stepped up as leaders.

Treya Connell is the coordinator of connections for Helping Kids Succeed. A Hastings native, she is currently a student at the University of Iowa and plans to be a physician assistant. She has been involved in softball, Young Life, Student Council, Link Crew and more.

Connell said her passion for youth development grew out of the web of connection that was created around her and by her through her involvement in teams, groups and clubs. She said her involvement has shaped her and connected her to the world.

Connell is working in the community to collect ideas for the Helping Kids Succeed - The Hastings Way book. The book will offer a baseline of how "connected" youth and adults are in the Hastings community. Those willing and able to have their staff, congregation, family, friends and/or colleagues write some input for the book, email or

The book can't be printed until there are 2,500 inputs from Hastings people. Those involved hope the book can be printed by March of 2014.

Hanah Martin is a youth presenter for Helping Kids Succeed. A 2013 Hastings High School graduate, she is enrolled at Bismarck State College with plans to study criminal justice and law enforcement. She was a member of the varsity girls basketball team and captained the track team for two years. She currently coaches fifth-grade basketball and helps with the high school track team.

Martin said she got involved with Helping Kids Succeed because she knows what it's like to not feel connected, and now that she has a web of support, she feels empowered, safe and supported. She said she enjoys showing kids and adults that they can connected as well, and that it is important to do so.

Connell's work is being coordinated by International Child/Youth Advocate Derek Peterson. Mari Mellick, the new director of the United Way of Hastings, is organizing a 2013-2014 campaign around the theme and outcome of the project. With Connell leaving in mid-August for college, Peterson is looking for other youth/adult teams ready to step up.

More information about Helping Kids Succeed is available on Facebook at and at