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LAYC's DC Prevention Center Presents Underage Drinking PSA's Starring LAYC Youth PDF Print
Tuesday, 11 August 2015 11:32

The DC Prevention Center of Wards 1 & 2, based at LAYC, is pleased to present its underage drinking PSA's starring LAYC youth.The DCPC provides education and technical assistance to community partners and networks on underage drinking and marijuana use with the goal to create a healthier, safer, and more knowledgeable drug-free community.

A key component of the DCPC's work is its youth network, a group of young people interested in improving their community that meets once a month to explore issues in the community and develop strategies to reduce underage drinking. Recently, the youth network participated in a media literacy training on alcohol and underage drinking. They learned how to create a public service announcement (PSA) that allows them to become agents and advocates for social change. As a result of this training, the youth produced an awareness PSA, Talk to me About Alcohol, that supports the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) federally funded campaign There's a Reason. In mid-July, LAYC hosted Mayor Bowser and the DC Department of Behavioral Health as they announced the local version of the campaign, which targets parents with messages about talking to youth about alcohol. LAYC's DCPC is one of the community partners implementing the activities of the effort. The youth network also produced a youth-oriented PSA, which illustrates the effect of alcohol on athletic performance, Game Day.

The DC Prevention Center of Wards 1 & 2 is funded by the DC Department of Behavioral Health.

Cultivating Social Justice through the Power of Education PDF Print
Tuesday, 11 August 2015 10:06

By Juan Pacheco, Cardozo High School Site Supervisor

Power is the ability to influence and transform your own reality and future. This is what we sought to cultivate at this year's College Access Mentoring Program (CAMP) on Georgetown University's campus. As they explored college life, we challenged young people from DC to reflect on the power that education, social justice, and community can harness to shape their future and that of their communities, and how to use or create that power to succeed in college. CAMP's presence at Georgetown was a spark, an example of the significant change we want to make in our world.

Georgetown is a well-known and highly selective university that has produced countless individuals who influence various realms of power in the United States and abroad. The young people that participated in C.A.M.P. infused Georgetown with life stories that are not the norm at many universities: youth that come from communities with profound challenges and social barriers, but that persevere and fight to show the world their valor y propósito...their value and purpose. Georgetown was transformed by their presence, and they themselves were transformed by realizing the fact that they can also reach the heights of a prestigious university education.

"The students were excited to learn, open to learning new forms of writing, and eager to voice their wants and needs," said English Language Learner program instructor, Lindsey Cienfuegos.For six weeks, 50 diverse youth ages 15-24 explored college life through various academic and enrichment opportunities, including a writing seminar; teaching assistant (TA) sessions; college and career readiness workshops; enrichment activities; college tours to American University and New York University; and a fieldtrip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Through TA sessions, youth discussed social justice topics and history, such as gentrification and the Holocaust. For many of the students, gentrification is a reality they live every day, but seldom have time to critically think about the theoretical benefits for the community or its detrimental effects on access and mobility for those without power or wealth.

For Ian Terry, a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, proved transformational, "The power of a voice and the importance of history were the most powerful ideas that CAMP taught me that will help me in life. I learned that it is important to speak for ourselves and write our own stories. Before CAMP, history wasn't that important to me. But, the visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the lessons of the leaders changed my mind. I realized that we humans are not so different from each other. We want to live and reach our full potential, but sometimes we mess up and limit and hurt each other...so I learned that we must learn from the past and not repeat those same mistakes." Ian will be part of the freshman class at Delaware State University this fall where he plans to study aviation science.

Every afternoon, students explored the recreational aspect of college life as a means to build community with other students who share the same interests and to learn how to build a network of support that leads to success at a university. They learned to play guitar, refurbish computers, produce music, and other skills that cultivate possibility.

"CAMP introduced me to so many resources and provided me such a strong support system that built up my determination for this upcoming school year. I expect to enter my senior year with more confidence and motivation to strive for success," stated rising senior at Wilson High School, Yasmin Rivera. Yasmin plans to be a Georgetown Hoya in the fall of 2017.

It was our hope that by exposing youth to the power of education's many realms that they would be better prepared to succeed once they are walking the campuses of their universities or serving to make this world a better place.

See more photos from CAMP and other LAYC summer programs on Facebook.



Adelante's Soccer Program: Beyond Recreation and Sports for Youth PDF Print
Monday, 10 August 2015 13:36

By Angela Gonzalez, Adelante Prevention/Community Coordinator

He stood there in front of my desk with confidence and an assertive look in his eyes. "I am an excellent soccer player, and I used to play at the professional level in my country. I think I could be an asset to your soccer program," he said. Having maxed out the number of youth that two people (coach and I) could realistically manage, I regretfully had to explain to him that we were no longer accepting participants. Little did I know that the following week he would show up to our practice dressed in full soccer gear with three friends also in full soccer gear. "We are here because we want to play soccer. We are young people who have the right to recreation and to have access to programs that will keep us away from the streets." This persistent young man and his buddies are now active participants in Adelante's summer soccer program.

For the last three months, 30 Latino youth, male and female, ages 13–19, from the Langley Park community and neighboring areas have convened once a week for two hours to exercise, gain athletic skills, and do what they love: play soccer.

At first glance, Adelante's soccer program may look like your typical recreation or sports program. In Langley Park, however, such a program takes a different meaning. In a community with a large number of newly arrived youth from Central America and Mexico, limited recreation space, and few accessible soccer activities for young people, it can mean the only connection to your identity in a world where you are struggling to assimilate. It can mean feeling powerful in an environment where you are undocumented and/or disenfranchised. It can mean freedom in a community where you find yourself sharing your living space with a large group of people. It can also mean becoming an advocate for yourself.

Adelante's soccer program is the result of building key community partnerships, which has allowed us to offer the program on a very tight budget, with limited resources, and free of cost to our participants. During the planning stages of the program, we realized we had some challenges to overcome: not having a field to practice on and providing our youth with the necessary equipment to be able to play soccer. As we developed connections with partners, these challenges started to fade, and our soccer program became a reality! Leveling the Playing Field donated equipment and soccer gear to get our program started. Dreamer's Academy, a parent-led soccer school, graciously allowed us to use their soccer field permit. Adelante's funding partner, Avance Center for the Advancement of Immigrant/Refugee Health at The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, donated soccer uniforms so our players could participate in a DC youth tournament this summer. A key aspect to the success of our program was recruiting former Adelante staff Ronald Vega as soccer coach. Ronald not only has the technical knowledge and skill, but more importantly is familiar with the needs and struggles of Langley Park youth. He gives coaching sessions in a friendly and positive environment that is also culturally sensitive. I am incredibly grateful to our partners and to Ronald for making the Adelante soccer program possible for our youth.

While I knew soccer was the sport to offer Adelante participants this summer, the impact it has had on the youth has been beyond my expectations. What was originally conceived as a sports summer program, has become a space where youth are developing positive relationships not only with their peers but also with their families and the community. To some parents, this has been one of the few opportunities to engage in activities with their teens. "My daughter recently arrived in the U.S.," a mother told me. "We don't really get along, but because soccer is so important to her, I make the effort to drive her every week to practice so she sees that I care about her, and she appreciates that." At the community level, our youth have engaged in other soccer-related events, such as one to honor a young girl who tragically passed in a soccer field last year. The program has also been an opportunity to provide individual support and case management to our participants. One of such cases is one of the players who approached me a few weeks ago asking for help to apply for a lifeguard job. He applied, rocked the interview, and is now enrolled in lifeguard training and expecting to be placed in a job very soon!

As our youth continue to play, have fun, and build meaningful connections, the Adelante team is working on building upon our soccer program to continue to use recreation and sports as a tool to empower more youth and their families in Langely Park. Please stay tuned for updates on our progress in future newsletters.

Adelante is a community-based, multi-level intervention to address the co-occurrence of substance abuse, violence and sexual risk among Latino youth in Langley Park. The overarching goal of Adelante is to build community, family, and individual assets as a mechanism for preventing youth risk behavior. To learn more, please visit: the Avance Center's Adelante website.

LAYC Brings Home Three NCLR Awards PDF Print
Thursday, 16 July 2015 10:09

by Alyson Moore, Riverdale AmeriCorps Program Coordinator

LAYC was thrilled to attend the NCLR Conference in Kansas City, where we were honored with the LGBT Affiliate Champion Award for our LGBT transitional living program, and our AmeriCorps program in Riverdale claimed two additional awards.

Our Riverdale AmeriCorps program received the national award for Outstanding Community Service Event for our annual Haunted House, which reached over 500 students and community members. The event The AmeriCorps Haunted House is a true community event, bringing present and former AmeriCorps members and local families together to provide the community with a fun and safe event. The annual event addresses a specific need in the Riverdale community: youth crime. For years, the weeks leading to Halloween consisted of rampant vandalism and illicit activities. Our AmeriCorps program set out to provide area youth with a safe and enjoyable outlet. 

We are especially proud of AmeriCorps member Luis Ostolaza Martinez who received the Director's Choice Award for his outstanding dedication to service through the program's partnership with Prince George's County Public Schools. Luis also received the Fedex "Spirit of Service" Award, which came with a check for $3,500 to go towards furthering his education.

Luis is a full-time member serving with the AmeriCorps LAYC/MMYC in Riverdale, Maryland. This award recognizes Luis for his dedication, peer collaboration, attendance, commitment to the organization, and overall excellence. As an AmeriCorps member, Luis works closely with eleven eighth grade students while also being available to work with all students in his assigned classes. One of the greatest improvements among his students is the change in the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) scores. His students have increased their scores by double, shown in the results of the second series of testing.

"The most rewarding success story thus far in my professional life has been the academic success of my students this year. Winning this award has given me the motivation to keep putting all my efforts toward helping youth reach their goals, and repeat the successes that I have seen in my students," Luis said as he accepted his award.

LAYC descended on the conference with ten AmeriCorps members, a handful of staff, and Lori Kaplan, LAYC President & CEO. We heard from three presidential candidates including former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O' Malley, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. They spoke about immigration reform, education, and the minimum wage. One of the highlights of the conference was having a private meeting with O'Malley, where our AmeriCorps embers shook hands, asked questions, and even took selfies with the former Governor! Also, during the conference, our AmeriCorps members participated in the Lideres Summit, attending workshops, listening to speakers, and networking with other young professionals in the educational and nonprofit fields.

The entire LAYC team had an amazing conference experience and came back empowered, refreshed, and reenergized to continue their work with youth in our region.

"The conference challenged me in ways I am so grateful for. It was so empowering to see other Latinas doing the work that I want to do when I get older, and really affirmed that I'm on the right path," shared AmeriCorps member Lesley Canales.


2nd Year of the LAYC Bicycle Adventure Camp PDF Print
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 17:08

By Landis Pulido, Site Coordinator

Me acuerdo la primera vez, I remember the first time, I thought of a bicycle as a way to be seen in my community. It all happened when I was riding with a group. I had my little bike crew when I was in middle school. My brothers, my neighbors, and I would plan these ‘missions’ or adventures, to either the pool, the store, my tia’s house, or wherever as long as we were riding together. As I jump on my bike today, I take in the breeze, sights, and big, deep breaths that allow me to prepare myself to walk into a school full of middle school youth energy.

Questions such as, “Can I ride your bike?” “Do you bike in the rain? in the snow? in this type of heat?” I say “Yes!” Last summer, I was told to get ready to run a summer camp for the middle school youth I was working with. At the moment, I thought, what would the youth like to do during the summer? How can I share the power of bicycling during this time? Words such as visibility/visibilidad, mobility/movilidad, community/comunidad, language access/acceso linguístico and adventure/aventura were all words that helped plant the seeds of the bilingual Bicycle Adventure Camp (BAC), Campamento de Aventura en Bicicleta here at LAYC.

Fast forward to this present moment, it is the second summer of BAC. In partnership with Gearin’ Up Bicycles, 16 LAYC youth received a bike that needs love, work, and to be used by them! Through the power of bicycling, we are enriched physically and mentally, gaining knowledge and practice of bike mechanics, bike safety, environmental and social issues, and for some learning how to ride a bike for the first time.

Youth also develop map reading and writing skills through daily creative workshops, completing weekly themed zine projects. Through zine writing and mapping, youth share their stories and experiences with their community. Bicycle Adventure Camp is more than just bike riding; it is an opportunity for youth to be active in their community, with a focus on leading healthier lives at the completion of the program. When we are able to work together and ride together, we can make any adventure happen!

“Creo que cuando la comunidad no ven en bicicletas, talvez pienso que también quieren andar en bicicletas. Con las revistas ellos pueden saber lo que hacemos. Yo me acuerdo cuando no sabía cómo andar en bicicleta, tenía miedo de caer, pero cuando me caía estaba bien porque sé que me gusta andar en bicicleta. Yo creo que ahora estoy más fuerte, porque creo en mí mismo que lo puedo hacer.”

“I believe that when the community sees us on the bicycles, I think that maybe they would want to ride bicycles as well. With the zines, they can learn more about what we do. I remember when I didn’t know how to ride a bike, I was scared to fall, but when I fell I was okay because I knew I like riding bicycles. I believe that today I am a lot stronger, because I believe in myself that I can do it.”

-Jennifer Lopez Fuentes, 13.  BAC returning participant and student at Raymond Education Campus.

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