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Thoughts on the NCLR Report, "Resilient Latino Youth: In Their Own Words” PDF Print
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 14:06
Geovany Posadas at the NCLR Report: "Resilient Latino Youth: In Their Own Words" event, April, 30, 2015.

Geovany Posadas at the NCLR Report: "Resilient Latino Youth: In Their Own Words" event, April, 30, 2015.

By Eric Macias, GED Instructor

On April 30th, Representative Tony Cardenas from California hosted a report briefing on Capitol Hill where a panel of experts talked about the adversity young Latina/os face that tends to lead them towards detention centers. The briefing was mainly based on the recently released NCLR report, "Resilient Latino Youth: In Their Own Words."

Geovany Posadas, a Montgomery County Conservation Corps participant, was part of the panel where he added a youth voice to the data collected in the report. His story of facing adversity fit well with what Patricia Foxen from NCLR, Maricela Garcia from Gads Hill Center, and Jeff Fleischer from the Youth Advocate Program (also a panelist) discussed in the form of statistics and shocking figures, such as the amount of money spent annually on juvenile arrests. I am glad and proud that Geovany spoke and personified what the report highlighted. Geovany's advocacy in support of other young Latina/os in similar situations as his exemplified the needed support of young adults and programs that create safe spaces for youth to create their own positive pathway towards adulthood.

By Geovany Posadas, Montgomery County Conservation Corps Participant

What I spoke about was the different situations I have dealt with in my life and how I overcame those situations. I have dealt with the juvenile system many times, and I overcame that by understanding that I was wrong sometimes. I wanted to change; I wanted something positive. I thought about the difference I can make for my future, and I made changes.

I thought the event on the Hill was interesting. I got to learn more about youth adversity and the ways that we as a community can help those in need. Youth are actually our future, and we have to help build that future. Youth make mistakes and maybe end up in jail, but the government keeps them in cells without any intention of helping create their new futures. I felt as if I was a person who could help contribute to this change. I want to be able to give back to the community after being helped by a community.

 
Immigration Reform Forum, DACA Clinic, #LAYCDreamers PDF Print
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 10:46
#LAYCDreamers and allies march in Columbia Heights to the immigration reform forum, April 30, 2015.

#LAYCDreamers and allies march in Columbia Heights to the immigration reform forum, April 30, 2015.

by Cecilia Dos Santos, Healthy Relationships Program Coordinator, and Heryca Serna, Healthy Relationships Case Manager

As Congressman Luis Gutierrez looked down at her from the stage repeating, "You will be a U.S. citizen," Kathryn's hopes and dreams came to the surface and a single tear rolled down her cheek. He was speaking directly to her, but as we witnessed this exchange we sensed the relief, hopefulness, courage, and optimism overflowing from the entire audience. On April 30th, the local community welcomed the Congressman to Bell Multicultural High School where over 40 LAYC youth packed the aisles, sporting vibrant red #LAYCDreamers t-shirts, flashing posters exclaiming "Keep Our Families Together!" and chanting in unison against deportations. The energy in the room was electrifying and impossible to ignore. This was our community, vibrant and demanding to be heard. The feeling of unity, particularly among all of LAYC's youth, was present. One young man, full of enthusiasm despite not identifying as Latino or speaking Spanish, was there as an ally supporting immigration reform vital to his community.

#LAYCDreamers and allies stopped for the perfect photo op at the "My Culture, Mi Gente" mural in Columbia Heights by artist Joel Bergner, April 30, 2015.

#LAYCDreamers and allies stopped for the perfect photo op at the "My Culture, Mi Gente" mural in Columbia Heights by artist Joel Bergner, April 30, 2015.

Congressman Gutierrez is traveling the nation on his Immigration Action National Tour to educate communities about the President's executive orders on the expansion of DACA (Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals) and new DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). Two young women from LAYC were among those selected to ask questions. Kathryn and Claudia chose to address the Congressman from their own life experiences and with a hope for ensuring a safe future for their entire community. Specifically, they spoke to the need for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, and about the human rights protections for Central American children fleeing violence in their home country.

LAYC has been a safe space for youth and families, offering opportunities to improve youths' lives with education, wellness, and job-readiness programs. One of those is the Healthy Relationships Program, which aims to support youth survivors of dating violence and sexual abuse. During our weekly Nuestras Voces (our voices) group, we invited our participants to attend this immigration rally, and immediately Claudia's eyes grew wide. We had her full attention. Claudia was eager to know how she could be more involved. Youth and immigrant women are often invisible within this growing movement. However, Claudia and Kathryn recognized this rally as an opportunity to raise their voices, share their experiences, and take action in a movement for change.

The young women in our Healthy Relationships groups know that we cannot address the causes and solutions to dating and sexual violence without also acknowledging the injustices faced by our communities. This means talking about the reality of youth's lives: living in fear of deportation, family separation, and police brutality which deny young people the opportunity to continue their education, seek dignified employment, support their families, and live their dreams (#LAYC Dreamers stand with #BlackLivesMatter). Youth navigate complex systems that constantly challenge their attempts to end cycles of violence. These intersectional issues are ever present for our program participants and other LAYC youth. It is in our Nuestras Voces meetings and public spaces such as the Congressman's rally that LAYC elevates youth, like these young women, to make their voices heard. When we uplift the voices of those who have been silenced and pushed to the margins, we raise the voices of all our youth seeking justice, safe families, safe homes, and safe communities.

As staff witnessing the courage and leadership of youth like Kathryn, Claudia, and the other LAYC supporters at the rally, we intend to keep this sense of community moving forward.

On June 6, LAYC will host a free DACA application preparation clinic for eligible youth. Please help spread the word, and offer your time to this great cause. With your support, we will continue to empower all of our extraordinary young people.

Visit the LAYC DACA Resource Page, share the Facebook Event, and Tweet to your followers.

For more pictures from the forum, please visit LAYC's Facebook page.

Watch Univision's coverage of the event, below.

 
LAYC Teen Health Promoters headed to The George Washington University's DC Health and Academic Prep Program this summer! PDF Print
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 10:27
Headed to GWU this summer, from left: Claudia Blanco, Bontu Kumsa, Jordy Portillo, and Leslie Rivera.

Headed to GWU this summer, from left: Claudia Blanco, Bontu Kumsa, Jordy Portillo, and Leslie Rivera.

By Andrea Thomas, M.P.H., Sexual Wellness Program Manager

Andrea oversees the Teen Health Promoters (THP) program, a year-long health education and health careers exploration program. The after-school program enrolls 15 high school students each year.

When I look at the Teen Health Promotors, I see the health leaders of the next generation. Bontu, a 16-year old junior from Ethiopia, wants to be an anesthesiologist. Jordy, a rising senior, dreams of improving the health care system in his native El Salvador with Doctors Without Borders. Like their fellow THP participants, they want to change the world through a career in medicine.

The Teen Health Promoters all live in the nation's capital, a region with world-class, prestigious universities. And yet, for many of the youth LAYC serves, access to these institutions is limited. For several years, LAYC's THP program has partnered with The George Washington University School of Health and Medicine to provide clinical internships to our participants. The partnership has given THP youth the opportunity to shadow doctors and nurses, practice CPR and phlebotomy in the hospital's skills lab, and gain invaluable exposure to a leading, teaching hospital.

Recently, I received an invitation to meet with the heads of the School's Office of Diversity and Inclusion to discuss other pipeline programs for underrepresented students who are interested in health professions. One of these programs is the DC Health and Academic Prep program, which is a four-week experience at GWU's School of Medicine and Health Sciences for DC Public Schools' rising seniors who are interested in a health career.

Four of our Teen Health Promoters, including Bontu and Jordy, applied for the summer program, which comes with a $2,500 stipend. For a few nerve-racking weeks, I hoped they would all get in, knowing what a GWU-is-interested-in-you message would mean for their confidence and future prospects. I am proud to say that all four were accepted and will be one step closer to reaching their dreams!

Congratulations to Claudia Blanco, Bontu Kumsa, Jordy Portillo, and Leslie Rivera who will work directly with physicians and other medical professionals to learn about various health career paths, participate in college preparatory activities, receive support with the college application process, and build mentoring relationships for long-term academic and professional success in the medical field. My hope is to be able to provide all rising seniors in future THP cohorts the opportunity to participate in DC HAPP.

 
A Youth Developer's Take on the Youth Violence Prevention Summit PDF Print
Monday, 18 May 2015 14:17

by Nick Derda, Youth Developer, Sexual Health

Nick participated as a panelist at the Youth Violence Prevention Summit, May 12, 2015, in the Strategies for Youth Violence Prevention and Intervention workshop. Nick represented LAYC's teen pregnancy prevention program. The workshop highlighted effective strategies, models, and prevention efforts in combating various forms of violence, including domestic, dating, and community violence.

Nick Derda, LAYC Youth Developer, at the Youth Violence Prevention Summit, May 12, 2015.

Nick Derda, LAYC Youth Developer, at the Youth Violence Prevention Summit, May 12, 2015.

When I was first asked to speak on this panel, I felt intimated. The other panelists were higher ups from national organizations, and then there was me, the front line staff of a local nonprofit. That feeling only intensified when I checked into the conference and realized that the keynote speaker was Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General of the United States! I had no time to break a sweat, as the panel was about to start. I felt that nervous, what-have-I-gotten-myself-into feeling return as the moderator read the other panelists' biographies: 20 years in the field doing this, 15 years doing that, and creating the first intervention targeting this vulnerable population. When the time arrived for me to speak, however, all my nerves went away. This was a presentation. I present to youth on the uncomfortable and controversial topics of sexual and reproductive health all the time. This would be a piece of cake. And it was. As people came up to me afterwards to ask questions, I thought to myself, "Wow, I know a lot more about this topic than I give myself credit for."

Participating in the panel reminded me I see the effects that violence has on our youth everyday. I am not talking about physical violence, the kind of violence anyone would critique and condemn. I am talking about the kind of violence that is the toxic stress that comes from living in poverty, from being educated in a broken system, and from living in an environment where incarceration is more likely than graduation from college. This is the violence we cannot quantify with statistical measures or report in pretty graphs to funders. As I immersed myself even further in the conversations taking place at the conference, I realized that LAYC is not the only place participating in the challenging conversations on these systemic forms of violence. And that gave me hope for my youth.

 
College Decisions 2015! PDF Print
Friday, 01 May 2015 11:54
LAYC staff wearing their alma maters' gear on College Signing Day, May 1, 2015, in support of our college-bound seniors.

LAYC staff wearing their alma maters' gear on College Signing Day, May 1, 2015, in support of our college-bound seniors.

Congratulations to our college-bound seniors! Here's our running list of college admissions for fall 2015!

  • Mohammed Ismail, The George Washington University
  • Wendy Perez, The George Washington University
  • Asya Crump-Seton, Hall University
  • Daniel Larios, North Carolina Central University
  • Wilson Lanchipa, Towson University
  • Joyce Distinto, Trinity University
 
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