Evansville native Laura Ferguson began attending Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana’s Teen Advisory Council meetings as a Central High School freshman. Twelve years later, Ferguson still hasn’t left the program.
Today, the 27-year-old serves as the executive director for Youth Resources, an organization founded in 1987, which helps engage and involve young people in community service projects. Since its inception, Youth Resources has involved more than 148,875 young people, ranging in age from 5 to 18, in 3,250 service projects.
“Youth Resources is a unique community that is so supportive and so focused on serving others,” says Ferguson, who succeeded former executive director Ann Burnworth in January 2015. “It changed my life in a number of ways. I think that every kid in some way, shape, or form is at risk. One exposure to one adult, positive peer, or one service opportunity can change the trajectory of their lives.”
When Ferguson joined Youth Resources as a high school student, she said she was extremely shy and “had a lot going on inside that I wanted to say.” She met adult mentors who encouraged her and was introduced to students more like her in “an open, welcoming, and trusting environment where you can really express whatever you want to express.”
Ferguson attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where she studied nonprofit management. She interned with Youth Resources during college, and after, she decided to work part-time with the organization until she joined the staff full-time as the Teen Advisory Council coordinator. After two years in the position, she took over as development director, and by the next year, she was promoted to executive director.
As executive director, Ferguson promotes the organization in the community, reaches out to youth to get involved, and maintains donor relationships. Her favorite part of the job is working with the youth.
“The past executive director used to say that she kissed the paperwork on her desk,” says Ferguson. “What you do behind the scenes makes it possible for those students to have the experience that I had.”
Jeremy Brown, Youth Resources communications and special events coordinator, says no one truly understands how hard Ferguson works behind the scenes for the program. The two met in the summer of 2006 when Brown attended his first TEENPOWER camp as an incoming Castle High School sophomore and Ferguson was on the youth staff.
“She was super, loving, genuine, and the most caring person on the planet,” says Brown. “She was really invested in me and helped me see things in myself I didn’t see.”
Youth Resources offers four programs including the Make a Difference Grants, which provides grants up to $750 for local youth of all ages to lead service projects in the community, Vanderburgh County Teen Court, a diversion program that offers first-time teen offenders the opportunity for a second chance, Teen Advisory Council, a program where high school students meet bimonthly to identify youth issues, and TEENPOWER camp, which is the only youth substance abuse prevention conference of its kind.