Wednesday, 18 March 2015 14:22
By Jessica Hicks, youth developer
Safe Housing staff at the LAYC Dance-a-thon, November 2014.
"Hi, how may we help you?" Those are the words that resonate through the Street Outreach program (SOP) office as homeless and/or unstably housed youth ages 13-24 come in for services ranging from emergency supplies such as food, to facilities for showers and doing laundry, to case management and life skills classes. SOP, under our Safe Housing umbrella is one of LAYC's longest running services to the community and an important point of entry for many youth into our educational, job training, and enrichment programs.
Located at 3045 15th Street NW, SOP welcomes youth to drop–in from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment from 2-6 p.m. to use the facilities, access the community closet, and to receive information and referrals to internal and external housing programs. Twice a month, the staff and community volunteers visit known hang-outs to distribute food and toiletry kits and provide information about the program's services.
"We seek to serve everyone who comes into our doors in some capacity." said Jorge Cabrera, case manager.
Estrella, SOP Peer Educator.
A hallmark of the Street Outreach program is its peer educator program, where past participants work alongside staff to engage youth. One of these peer educators in Estrella.
I came to the USA with the help of my parents because they wanted to give me and my family a better future. Having to emigrate from El Salvador to the United States was particularly difficult for me. Being given no choice, I was left to my own solutions. I was given information to the Latin American Youth Center and from there it has been great since. Specifically, the Teen Health Promotors helped me plant my feet. While there I gave advice by helping others be safe.
After the program, I heard about an amazing opportunity with the Street Outreach Program as a Peer Educator. So far, this has been an amazing ride for me and I am excited to keep learning more about youth homelessness and advocacy.
At the core of LAYC's mission, our street outreach program has engaged thousands of homeless and runaway youth for over 40 years. For more information about SOP or to find out how to volunteer during street outreach activities, please contact
, SOP case manager, or
, SOP youth developer.
Tuesday, 17 March 2015 17:40
Geovany Posadas on the "Resilient Latino Youth: In Their Own Words" Panel, NCLR Press Event, March 11, 2015. Photo Credit: NCLR.
We're proud of Montgomery County Conservation Corps participant Geovany Posadas who shared his story at NCLR's "Resilient Latino Youth: In Their Own Words" news event March 11. Geovany brought to life the findings of the NCLR report of the same name. Click here to download the report from NCLR's website. His unedited story is below.
Hi my name is Geovany Posadas and I wanted to share my story today.
I grew up in Langley Park. Living in Langley Park I lived around a lot of gang members, drug dealers, criminals and drug users. Throughout my life I hung out with all these types of people. When I was in elementary school I was getting good grades but then my sister passed away and made it hard on my family. My dad left the house and it was hard on my mom. My behavior started changing, as early as middle school I got put into an alternative school, away from all my friends. I did my best to get out of there and got As and Bs. Once I was put back into regular school I went back to my old ways. I always went with what my friends did. I never tried to be the positive person I could be.
In high school I began abusing drugs badly. I basically never went to school but when I did I was cursing at every teacher and got suspended regularly. I began to break into cars and rob people with my friends. Most of the time when I did these things I was drunk, this just got me more amped up to do whatever my friends peer pressured me to do. In school I would get suspended almost every day. It got so bad the police used to drop me off from school.
One day I went with my friends to rob a few houses, I came away with car keys and credit cards. We got away with it and still went back to use one of the cars I had keys for. When I went back, the cops were waiting for us. They locked me up for 1 year. I had been locked up before but this time it changed me. I sat in my cell and compared the negative and positive road. I knew if I kept going down the negative path I was going to end up dead or in jail. I felt like I could get everything that I was stealing on my own.
I got sent to Meadow Mountain, a juvenile facility, that helped to show me how to take responsibility for my actions. It made me think about the morals of each choice. I would sit back and think about each decision I made. If I made a mistake I learned to accept it and move on.
Once I got out I couldn't go back to school so they recommended I get my GED. Coming into LAYC for the first time I did everything that was asked of me. I got accepted to have a Promotor which helped me with getting food and shelter. They also helped me look for work. At the same time my mom left back to Honduras. She went to take care of my grandmother, this hurt to lose her but I understood. I moved in with my sister and she told me that I couldn't just go to school and have free living.
I got a job but after 6 months I dropped out of the GED program and continued working. I still wanted to get my education. After a year and a half of working I heard LAYC had a program that would also offer pay while I went to school called the Montgomery County Conservation Corps. I had no friends when I came here, only a positive attitude and a focus on my goals. I enjoy working in the outdoors with my team. I like my teacher and the fun activities of the program. I have done everything that I have been asked to do and more, including helping others. I think this is why my crew members selected me as their junior crew leader, a title given to the person who is a natural leader for the group.
I also joined another program at MMYC called the brotherhood program where we mentor middle school students twice a week. I lived a crazy life and I don't want them to be like me. I know my little brother will listen to me more than others so I wanted to be a mentor. I am happy to be able to do this for younger men.
When I get my diploma I plan to get a job and go to college. I would love to major in mechanical engineering and be able to provide for a family. I even hope to continue mentoring as I grow up and gain more wisdom so that I can give it back.
See more news on the event at La Opinion, holaciudad!, and Univision.
Tuesday, 17 March 2015 17:30
The Club participants Jonathan and Brenda in a meditation session.
Teens get stressed out. Between the academic demands of high school, expectations at home, issues in the news, and more, LAYC's youth need a breather. That's why The Club, our community peacebuilding program is taking the matter seriously. The program, which teaches conflict resolution skills offered participants a stress-relief workshop that included meditation, therapeutic coloring of Mandalas (geometric designs representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism), and Zumba.
The activity supports The Club's goal of building peace in the community by helping youth identify and release what's causing them stress. Brenda, 18, loves to dance and was excited to do Zumba during the activity. "Homework stresses me out. Dancing gives me energy."
The club youth de-stress after school with Zumba!
Claudia Diaz, the program coordinator, explained the theory behind the activity, "When we're stressed, we are not able to find peace within ourselves. We are too upset to spread peace." Claudia helps the youth find the stress-relieving activity that relaxes them the most. "Jose liked coloring the Mandala. He stopped fidgeting and focused on the colors in the design."
To 14-year-old Jonathan, "The meditation activity made me happy." He expressed that positive emotion by using bright, cheerful colors on his Mandala, which was captioned with: A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves a thousand moments of regret. "Coloring takes stuff away from your mind. You can express how you feel with colors," he added.
The Club participants are 14-18 years of age and attend Roosevelt Senior High School, Cardozo High School, and schools in the Columbia Heights Educational Campus. The Club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays after school for peer education, community outreach, and open discussion at LAYC's Columbia Heights site.
See more photos of The Club's street-relieving workshop on Facebook.
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 18:06
By Amber Morse, Full Circle Brotherhood Program Coordinator
First order of business at Full Circle Brotherhood gatherings is homework.
We're excited to share our newest program in Silver Spring, the Full Circle Brotherhood (FCB) mentoring program. FCB targets young men in our Montgomery County Conservation Corps (MCCC) and offers mentorship support to middle school aged boys from White Oak Middle School. In partnership with YMCA Youth and Family Services and the Gandhi Brigade, the program aims to encourage, support, and empower local youth to lead a healthier life through positive youth development and mentorship. What makes FCB unique is that the program follows a group mentoring model of mentorship.
Mentors meet with mentees twice a week. One of those days, the program focuses on teamwork through recreational activities such as soccer, basketball, and kickball that help us increase their interpersonal skills. Mentors also provide workshops for mentees that focus on real life issues. Who to better guide our youngest and easily influenced youth than young adults of similar backgrounds and ethnicities.
Alejandro, 12, likes the program because it's "fun and energetic." On a more serious note, he adds, "I've learned about the importance of trust and respect. My mentor is nice and I can trust him."
FCB understands that after school hours are a prime time for engaging young people. Our programming offers a safe space where they can learn and grow, form lasting friendships, have fun, and be enriched by a curriculum that fosters:
- Knowledge of self, creative expression
- Respect and empathy for one's peers, families and communities
- Healthy relationships and lifestyle choices
- Individual and collective responsibility within and beyond the program
Mentor Alexander Terc, 21, shares a timeout with mentee Alejandro, 12.
With FCB, the young mentors are striving to live more consciously, having defined manhood, brotherhood, and leadership and applying it to everyday life. They are also are working towards their GED, job readiness, and personal self-growth as they embark on a journey of mentorship. They are a profound example of the cycle of leadership.
"I get to be around these youth and help them choose a better route in life," says Alexander Terc, 21, about his participation as a mentor in FCB. "I didn't get to enjoy my childhood, so I'm reliving it through them." Alexander recently passed the GED exam through MCCC and is completing a two-month internship at Words, Beats, & Life, a nonprofit that uses a hip-hop as an approach to youth and community development including public art and teaching music and media.
For more information about the Full Circle Brotherhood program, please contact the program coordinator,
at (301) 495-0441 x240.