LAYC’s Promotor Pathway® program hosted a graduation celebration in June for 46 young people in the program who completed high school this year. Over almost 10 years, the Pathway has served 871 youth, supporting the region’s most vulnerable youth to succeed academically, obtain employment or post-secondary education, and improve the practice of healthy behaviors for a productive transition to adulthood. LAYC first started placing Promotores (or guides) in schools in 2014, to support youth on the verge of disconnection; LAYC currently has Promotores in three high schools in DC and six high schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Some of the graduates who were celebrated last month started working with their Promotor when they were in ninth grade! While we’ve seen individual youth graduate in years prior, some of these recent graduates were part of our “first cohort” of students, and their Promotores were able to support them throughout their entire high school careers. Without the support of their Promotor, it is highly likely that some of these students would not have stayed connected to school to make it to graduation.

Promotores provide intensive, long-term, one-on-one mentoring and case management to youth involved in current or past risky behaviors such as gang-related activity, truancy, criminal behavior, or teen pregnancy. They work intentionally and deliberately to build relationships designed to transform a young person’s life, focusing on building a relationship of trust and providing wraparound services through referrals, home visits, and escorting youth to appointments and important events, helping them achieve stability, connectedness, and self-agency.

The June graduation celebration featured remarks from Randi, who shared her experiences and offered advice to fellow graduates. She became pregnant in high school, and tension at home led to her becoming homeless. Her Promotor notes that Randi knew that she needed help but needed the support of her Promotor to connect her to the resources that she needed. Her Promotor, Cintia Martinez, worked with DC’s Child and Family Services Agency to connect her with services, and Randi was able to stay with one of LAYC’s Host Homes families until she was placed with foster parents. Randi gave birth during her senior year, but was able to finish high school and repair the relationship with her mom, all with the support of her Promotor. Randi’s goal is to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, and she is creating a child care and housing plan. Randi has said about LAYC: “LAYC treated me like family even when they didn’t know who I really was. [There] was always constant support when it came to my ambitions and my son, no matter the choices made it was always them to stand by and cheer me on. Without the program, I feel like I wouldn’t have the relationship with my mom or ended on such a positive note for my senior year of high school. The Promotor Pathway® is such a needed program, and it was truly a blessing for me to be in.” Her Promotor, Cintia, says about Randi: “It has been an enormous pleasure working with Randi. Without a doubt, this young lady can serve as an inspiration to many. She has demonstrated that things can get done regardless of the circumstances one may be facing. As her Promotor, I am extremely proud of Randi and amazed by her strong will in never giving up, even under circumstances that many others would have found too difficult. It is a wonderful feeling to watch her reach every goal.”

The following are stories of success for two other Pathway participants who graduated this year:

Mallary emigrated to the US from El Salvador when she was in middle school. She struggled with low self-esteem and mental health challenges and was involved in an unhealthy relationship. Mallory was matched with a Promotor, Mayra Herrera.  Mayra referred Mallary to a therapist, who helped her focus on her strengths and nurture her self-worth. Mallary went on to graduate from high school with honors, and was the first to graduate in her family. She also has been working since she was 14 and helps her mom with housing expenses and taking care of her siblings. She is in the process of finalizing her enrollment status at Brightwood College to study to be a medical assistant. Mallary’s therapist has said that “she is one of the most resilient clients I’ve ever had.” Mallary said to her Promotor, “Mayra, you’ve always been there trying to help me with everything you can during my high school experience. I know sometimes I bailed on you. You’re really supportive and caring about your kids, so I’m really grateful for you and the program.”

Yoni enrolled in the Promotor Pathway® during his first year of high school as a newly arrived student from Honduras. Yoni had to acclimate to a new school, a new language, and new culture and, for the very first time, meet his father. His goal was to graduate high school; however, he was unaware of all the challenges he would encounter as a new student. He began to think his goal was unattainable, and he considered withdrawing from school. He felt alone and had no one to turn to for support to complete homework assignments or to answer simple school questions. Yoni slowly allowed his Promotor to work alongside him, and before the end of his first year, he dismissed the idea of withdrawing from school. As he worked with his Promotor throughout all four years of high school, he gained confidence in navigating his school and learning to advocate for himself. His Promotor assisted him in completing his community service hours, in getting extra assistance for his school assignments and projects, and also in participating in field trips and LAYC events. He began making more friends and building his social support. With his Promotor, he focused on goal setting and working on his plans for the future. Yoni obtained a learner’s driving permit, attended driving school, and worked remodeling homes. Since he graduated high school this spring, he and his father started their own business in home remodeling, and Yoni plans to attend Prince George’s Community College’s Team Builder Academy to pursue an HVAC certification.

The Promotor Pathway® is a proud partner of Prince George’s County Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative, TNI@School; Prince George’s Community Schools Network; youthCONNECT, a Venture Philanthropy Partners initiative; Prince George’s County Public Schools Title I Office and the McKinney-Vento Program; the Community School Incentive Initiative Grant through the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE); and the DC Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG) High School Truancy Reduction Program.

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