From Left: Marcy Campos, American University Center for Community Engagement; Abel Núñez, CARECEN; Santos Amaya, LAYC youth participant; Eric Macias, LAYC; Sarah Block, Ayuda; and Ana Negoescu, CARECEN at the report press event, April 14, 2015.
by Eric Macias, Silver Spring GED Instructor
During the summer months of 2014, there was an influx of children and families apprehended by Border Patrol on the U.S-Mexico border. Roughly 7,000 children and youth landed in our region and needed different services. Several concerned organizations formed the DC-MD-VA Coalition in Support of Children Fleeing Violence in Central America to advocate for the betterment of the newly arrived children and their families. We held vigils, press conferences, and mobilized so that our community could be better prepared and able to provide needed services to this population. One of the goals of the Coalition was to organize a summit where service providers and other professionals could discuss challenges faced by the children fleeing violence in Central America as well as promising practices in our area.
I was honored to be part of the Coalition's summit organizing committee, which took place this past January, and I am grateful to have been supported by other LAYC staff, such as Shayna Scholnick and Mayra Herrera. After the summit, we wanted to combine the information provided by over 120 professionals, advocates, social service providers, lawyers, academics, elected officials, educators, and health providers from our community and coherently present it as a report to direct-service organizations and government officials.
Earlier this week, we released the report, which we hope can bring some changes that will positively impact newly arrived youth and families. The process of writing and editing was difficult and long, but in a very grassroots effort, different organizations and community members worked diligently to create the report. Aside from the final product, different organizations such as CARECEN, Ayuda, Clinica del Pueblo, and others, created a stronger bond that I think will help us in the future as we continue--as a community-- to advocate for just immigration reform that would protect children, families, and others that may be living in fear because they are undocumented.
I am glad that LAYC and staff are completely behind this effort.
The Summit Report on Central American Children Seeking Refugee is available on CARECEN's website. Media coverage, in Spanish, from the report press event may be accessed on Univision's website at minute 5:55 of that evening's news.
From left: Sean Carroll, LAYC Board of Directors; Tony Marquez, LAYC Board Chair and FuturoFund Campaign Committee Co-Chair; Lori Kaplan, LAYC President & CEO; Steve Linehan, FuturoFund Campaign Committee; Andrew Van Etten, LAYC Board of Directors; and Rick England, FuturoFund Campaign Committee Co-Chair at the FuturoFund Launch, April 8, 2015, at The Advisory Board Company.
FuturoFund – a bold and compelling, $5 million, three-year campaign to ensure bright futures for youth and families through sustainable, life-changing programs – was officially launched by LAYC's Board of Directors at the offices of The Advisory Board Company, April 8, 2015. The fund will ensure that over 4,000 low-income youth each year can continue to pursue a path to academic success, rewarding employment, safe places to live, and healthier lifestyles.
With the goal to leverage LAYC's track record of successful outcomes and continue as a life-changing force for low-income youth, the FuturoFund will focus on four objectives: Expanded Reach, Strategic Reserve, Future Leaders, and Capital Improvements.
Through Expanded Reach, LAYC will pilot new approaches to youth development and replicate or scale its proven models in communities that need us. This objective will also support evaluation and documentation of best practices.
A Strategic Reserve is the backbone of the FuturoFund, which will provide a cushion against unexpected programmatic cutbacks and government shutdowns, and it will create 120 days of operating reserve.
In the spirit of thinking ahead, the FuturoFund's Future Leaders objective will center on developing a strong bench of future leaders through recruiting and retaining high performing staff and providing them opportunities to grow their careers and skills at LAYC.
Finally, the Capital Improvements objective will ensure our programs are offered in welcoming spaces by repairing and upgrading buildings and offices and acquiring a new site in Maryland.
The FuturoFund was established by funds from the sale of two LAYC properties, and has received $2.35 million in commitments and pledges from ten contributors, including the Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, whose mission is to "identify and invest in visionary leaders and effective community-based nonprofit organizations that are working to create lasting improvements in the lives of low-income people in the Washington, DC metropolitan region, and works to strengthen the region's nonprofit sector as a vital and respected partner in meeting community needs."
"The Meyer Foundation is proud to have been one of the first foundations to support the Latin American Youth Center almost 30 years ago, and to have made many investments over the years to help LAYC build its capacity and become one the nation's premier youth development organizations. It's been an incredible journey," said Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation President & CEO. "We're also proud to be among the first contributors to the FuturoFund. We did this because we recognize that LAYC has to have a strong financial base in order to maintain its excellent programs and confidently plan for the future. By contributing to the FuturoFund, we ensue that out investment of the last 30 years continues to be secure and that LAYC is able to continue to do the critical work in our communities," she added.
In addition to the Meyer Foundation, the Clark Charitable Foundation, Deerbrook Charitable Trust, Lois England, Rick & Diana England, Julie Farkas & Seth Goldman, Marpat Foundation, The Moriah Fund, Stonesifer Kinsley Family Fund, and the World Bank Community Connections Fund have made commitments to the FuturoFund.
"The FuturoFund is a big next step for the youth center so it may continue to lead in the field of youth development and evaluation," stated LAYC President & CEO Lori Kaplan. "Our programs are strong, our youth are resilient, and we have dedicated staff. It is time for us to advance to the next stage of sustainability."
"LAYC gets about two-thirds of its revenue from government sources, and that is really not a good situation," said FuturoFund Campaign Committee Co-Chair Rick England. "We need to have funds in reserve to address immediate needs and grow into communities that need LAYC's programs and services." Rick England is the President of the England Family Foundation and formerly served as Treasurer of LAYC's Board of Directors.
The FuturoFund will ensure that LAYC may continue to foster communities where youth can become successful, happy adults– communities where youth succeed academically, acquire the skills for rewarding employment, have safe homes, and lead healthy lives.
A very special thanks to Adam Spiegel and The Advisory Board Company for hosting the launch of the FuturoFund.
Spring is a time of transition and new beginnings. We here at LAYC believe that every youth in trouble deserves a second chance. The Street Outreach Program (SOP) continues to outreach to homeless and runaway youth, especially those with children, in order to give them that opportunity. One of these youth is Breona.
Breona was kicked out of her family's home at 19 years old. In order to try to survive, she was left "couch surfing" between friends' homes with her two young children. Night after night, she was worried about where they would live, what they would eat, and where they would go. Luckily, the LAYC Street Outreach Program found her. Staff were able to transition Breona and her kids to the Transitional Housing Program.
"SOP gave me a stable place to live so I can get on my feet for school and save up money for my children. I feel very relieved that I now have a place of my own where my children can feel comfortable and not have to stay in one room," shares Breona.
Breona has a long list of future plans for her new beginning, including attending the LAYC Career Academy's Medical Assistants program while working in the field of childhood education. She hopes to inspire children who have experienced tough times like her.
SHAPE participants with Adelante case manager Benjamin Rosado (second from left).
by Benjamin Rosado, Adelante Program Case Manager
As the Latino population grows in the United States, there is a pressing need for culturally competent and comprehensive sexual health curricula to prevent and reduce rates of sexually transmitted infections, adolescent pregnancy, and gender-based violence and to create supportive spaces for gender identity exploration.
The Adelante Program, located in Langley Park, Maryland, in partnership with The George Washington University School of Public Health is developing a bilingual sexual health peer promotion program called Sexual Health Advocates, Promoters, and Educators (SHAPE). SHAPE aims to: (1) teach young people about sexual health, gender equality and identity, and community resources; and (2) support young people in developing facilitation and leadership skills to promote sexual health education in their communities and social circles.
Since September 2014, a group of 7-9 dedicated and committed Latino high schoolers have been meeting weekly after school to discuss sexual health issues and community resources for pregnancy and STI/HIV prevention, birth control options, and gender identity. What makes SHAPE unique is how the program approaches the subject of sexual health through a gender equality and social justice lens as these relate to the Latino and immigrant communities in Langley Park.
Knowledge is power for SHAPE participant Kathy, "Learning and talking about sexual health is important. It's good for people to know their sexual rights, especially in the community we live in."
In a few short months, the program participants have applied their new knowledge by co-facilitating sexual education workshops with Adelante's case manager Benjamin Rosado to community peers in English. This month, Benjamin and SHAPE participants began facilitating workshops to Spanish-speaking youth in the community. "I appreciate being able to teach other youth what I have learned in the program," said SHAPE participant Pablo. "It makes me feel accomplished that I'm doing something good to help others."
Program Accomplishments to Date:
Visited the teen health clinic Community Clinic, Inc. - Teen and Young Adult Health Connection (CCI-TAYA) to learn about the unique services of a youth health center.
Partnered with a youth-focused theatre program (Voices of Now via Area Stage Theatre) to develop youth's presentation, improvisation, and public speaking skills.
Promoted sexual health information and awareness at a community health fair (Langley Park Health Fair) to develop youth's community outreach skills.
LAYC was pleased to celebrate the talents and dedication of its social workers during Social Work Month! Over 20 staff are licensed social workers stationed at all of LAYC's sites and working in all program areas. Their special skills, commitment, and warm smiles make it possible to meet the comprehensive needs of our youth. Please join us in saying, "Thank you!" to our wonderful social workers!