Founder and President/CEO of Pyxis, Inc.
Pyxis, Inc. was founded in 1994 as a community-based organization, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, with a mission to serve at-risk youth. The founder and president, Mike Kriwiel, a special education teacher and coach in a small Kansas town, saw the need for services to assist the community’s youth and their families. He was the difference maker as he delivered hope to those who found themselves in difficult circumstances. Many had presented challenges to their schools and communities but with the help of Mike’s program, these young people were encouraged to improve their social skills, finish school, and get the training a good job required. Mike knew those were the key components that would help the youth lead fulfilling and independent lives.
With its distinct culture of caring, the company served as a community-based summer program for juvenile offenders, foster care youth, and children in need of care (CINC). The company’s focus, at that time, was placing groups of 3 to 5 youth with an adult mentor and having them work for business partners in the community. Empowering youth through the development of positive social skills, effective education and job readiness training, promoted significant personal growth for them and benefited their families so that they could lead healthy productive lives. The program was so successful that the local Social Rehabilitative Services (SRS), the agency providing assistance programs in the state of Kansas, asked Mike to offer the program year-round. He agreed, and left his teaching and coaching career to focus on designing and delivering programs for serving youth and their families in the state.
As “Together Kids Can” began to flourish, the name, “Job Readiness Training,’ was adopted to more accurately describe the company’s services. Job Readiness Training (JRT) quickly developed a reputation for creative programming and community collaboration. As word of the company’s success spread to other state agencies and social service organizations, JRT was invited into other communities and states to offer its programs and services. When the company began, it was offering mentoring and pre-vocational training to approximately 40 youth. Today, the company provides a large variety of employment and behavioral health services to over 1,500 participants in multiple locations.
In 1999, Job Readiness Training took its well-established niche of providing innovative, community-based services to at-risk youth, into North Carolina and Virginia. There the company continued to distinguish itself with the proven ability to assist youth in overcoming barriers to education and employment.
In 2000, the company expanded its services to provide mental health programs in both Kansas and North Carolina, by opening a new division called Behavioral Link. Individuals with severe emotional disorders (SEDs) and a variety of behavioral disorders were offered an assortment of services including Psycho-social Group and Individual Rehabilitation, Attendant Care, Community Support, and Intensive Family Services, to name a few. These valuable community-based services provided opportunities for many individuals to receive treatment while remaining in the comfort and familiarity of their homes and communities.
As the company’s vision grew, it became necessary to adopt a more comprehensive mission, and with that, a new name that would embody the new mission. In 2007, Job Readiness Training was renamed Pyxis, Inc. The name Pyxis refers to a small constellation in the southern hemisphere that served as a compass box to mariners. The name represents one choosing their direction wisely, with the help of a knowledgeable guide, as well as looking to the future for inspiration and encouragement.
In 2010, Pyxis established two new divisions. Family Support and Preservation was introduced to address the needs of families with children by providing them with supportive services or more intensive family preservation services, intended to maintain keep with their families, or to reunify them, whenever it can be done safely. Additionally, Pyxis instituted a new Training and Consulting division called Business Navigation. This idea for this division came about after the company had been approached by other entities hoping to learn from Pyxis’ solid business model. Pyxis’ Business Navigation exists to offer a wide array of services to assist small to medium-sized companies with strategic infrastructure, administrative, operational, and staff development, training, trouble shooting, and management.
Early 2011 marked the expansion of group and individual Behavioral Health services to the state of Texas. The company (operating in Texas under the name Pyxis Path) launched services targeted toward younger and older youth, offering flexible learning environments and customized solutions. Pyxis also has plans to cultivate services from its other divisions throughout the state in the coming year.
Through collaborative relationships with local businesses, schools, and community partners, the company has helped many youth and adults find a “new lease” on life, while effectively conserving funding dollars and keeping families intact. The company continues to utilize best practices and creative approaches to carefully and purposefully develop services that positively impact youth and young adults in their ability to choose an independent life.