LogoBee - Hi Ellen, thank speaking with us.
Ellen - Good morning, Russell.
LogoBee - Could you first give us a little bit of background on Project Oz as an organization?
Ellen - Certainly. We’ve been doing our work for 35 years in Central Illinois, about halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. This work focuses on youth and their families who are having troubles of one kind or another. To do this, we use prevention and intervention strategies in schools, homes, at our office, and at community centers and homeless shelters. Everyone wants to have a successful life; we provide the tools for people to create their own successes.
LogoBee - What are some of the programs and services offered at Project Oz?
Ellen - Oh, there are several things we do. We started our drug education program back in 1976, and it’s still thriving today. Our educators go into school health classes to teach young people better ways of handling stressors than turning to drug use. We’re the only agency in a 1,700-square mile area to help kids who have run away from home or been locked out of their homes. It’s amazing how many young people face this kind of crisis. We offer emergency shelter through a network of families who are trained and licensed to shelter youth in their homes for a few nights, while our counselors work on getting families back together. We’ve been doing this work since 1985 and have helped kids from across the U.S., Mexico, and even a girl from Guatemala. Recently we started a Transitional Living Program that provides a lot of different kinds of supports to teach young people how to live independently.
LogoBee - Regarding your drug prevention and outreach programs, do you find drug abuse is a prevalent problem among today’s youth? Does it often lead to or create problems in the home or at school for these children?
Ellen - The good news is that most kids are NOT using drugs. There is a terrible amount of misinformation and peer pressure to “do drugs,” but most kids have been able to avoid it. Still, there are some who turn to drugs for a variety of reasons, and it inevitably leads to more problems than they started with. Some of the consequences are falling academic performance, loss of friends, family fighting (verbal, psychological, and physical), and sometimes families even separate because of it. For each individual who uses drugs, there are a host of psychological and physical consequences, from memory loss, to disease promotion like lung and liver cancers, to learning problems and developmental delays. This is serious stuff. Sometimes people don’t realize that they’re trading away time and energy they could be using to do positive things. At the end of the spectrum are all the lifetime consequences that come with addiction.
LogoBee - Could you explain a little bit more about the transitional living program that you offer? It seems to be really quite unique.
Ellen - This is a great program. Until we started doing the research for it, I was not aware how much homelessness exists. It’s staggering. Transitional Living is for young people who are living rough and want help getting out of it. These kids come from backgrounds where their parents didn’t give them a whole lot of direction, and many weren’t able to stay in school. The whole program is 18 months, and during that time the participants come to weekly Life Skills sessions that teach everything from safety, to learning how to budget, to how to find resources. They get coaching in those “soft skills” we all need for employment but don’t seem to be taught anywhere, and we created a job bank. We continue to provide counseling support and whatever else it takes for each individual to learn to live self-sufficiently. We have several apartments where we pay the first few months’ rent, then slowly decrease our portion as the young person learns to begin paying it. Every one of the participants finds a job, and begins to work back into mainstream society, doing things like opening a savings account, buying a used car to get to their jobs, and maybe enrolling in GED courses to finish their high school education. It’s a big program that takes kids with few skills and helps them become healthy and truly independent.
LogoBee - Does Project Oz have any current goals or upcoming projects currently in the making?
Ellen - We sure do. We currently have a proposal to extend the Transitional Living to youth who are victims of domestic violence. That would be a great extension, since there are barriers for youth to use current systems. A few years ago we started a school-community partnership with a high school, where we have a counselor on-site to help troubled youth stay in school. His work has been so successful that three more schools want counselors, too.
LogoBee - How did you learn that LogoBee was hosting a Logo Design Makeover Contest, and what made you decide to enter?
Ellen - I found it on the web, Russell. The internet is such a cool tool. The contest came at the right time for us. Project Oz (projectoz.org) is growing, and we found a need to update our 35-year old logo to reflect our growth. We’re not designers – we’re social workers. So, we figured that we’d leave the design to the professionals.
LogoBee - When you found out that you had won a logo design with LogoBee, did you have any initial concepts?
Ellen - No concepts, really. It was more like a list of do’s and don’ts. We wanted something simple, graphical and stylish, and we didn’t want any references to wizards or magic, or something that just appealed to little kids. As we are growing up as an organization, we wanted our image to grow up, too. As a social service, we also don’t have a lot of money for printing and promotions, so we wanted something we could use in-house. The new logo had to be something eye-catching and easy to recognize without using a lot of color.
LogoBee - Did you find that LogoBee was able to ‘hit the mark’ with the new logo design? What has been the initial response with respect to the new look? Will be able to reach out to at-risk youth more effectively with the logo?
Ellen - Absolutely! The new logo is everything we wanted. Your designers were able to capture our work and our philosophy in a simple, stylish design. They even designed it to reflect diversity, different ages, our straight-forward approach to service, and the fact that we put people first. A little splash of color makes it come alive. The young people we work with like it better, because it’s not so little-kid oriented. The new logo gives us a more polished image, and that just makes people feel better about coming to us. Yeah, the reaction to the logo has been very positive – especially among the staff who are represented by it.
LogoBee - Well thank you so much Ellen for taking the time to speak with us. I know that you’re busy and probably have all kinds of kids to help out, so I’ll let you get back to what you do best. It’s truly been a pleasure.
Ellen - Thank you, Russell.