By Cecilia Dos Santos, Healthy Relationships Program Coordinator
As LAYC heads into the start of Hispanic Heritage month, the DACA committee is ready with two major events and a handful of DREAMER Scholarships to grant! Thanks to the generosity of many donors, the committee raised funds through our Do More 24 campaign last spring to directly impact the lives of our youth seeking financial assistance with their immigration processes. The committee is actively reviewing a number of scholarship applications from some of LAYC's bright young participants who are struggling to cover the full $465 in fees for DACA applications or other immigration expenses. DACA remains a critical tool for immigration relief available to many undocumented youth in our communities, and the committee is thrilled to be able to assist these youth in achieving their personal, career, and educational goals. Additionally, the committee is eager to spread the word about our next FREE DACA clinic on Saturday, October 10th. And finally, as a lead into our Clinic event, the committee is honored to host a screening of the film Risers, a film and photography series by local artist Andy Fernandez focused on America's undocumented immigrant youth on Wednesday, October 7, at 4:30 p.m.
The committee's first applicant, a DACA-eligible youth, is a young woman on track to graduate from a Prince George's County high school in Maryland this May 2016. As she prepares for her senior year — including the cost of senior activities, college applications, and future tuition savings — she knows she'll need a work permit to start making her dreams of going to college a reality. The DREAMER Scholarship will help her file her DACA application this fall, obtain a work permit, and start saving towards the cost of applying to college. She's committed in her goal to get to continue her studies in sociology and criminology at the university level just one year from now.
DACA, or "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," is an immigration program created in August 2012 to provide limited relief for immigrants who were brought to this country without documents as young children, offering a temporary work permit and an opportunity to apply for a state driver's license. In November of 2014, the Obama administration issued an order expanding DACA's eligibility to capture more young immigrants under its relief, and also created DAPA, "Deferred Action for Parents of American or Lawful Permanent Residents." This program grants similar relief to the undocumented mothers and fathers of U.S. citizen or "green-card" holding children.
While the DACA-Expansion and DAPA programs remain temporarily blocked by federal courts, the original program is still available and many of our youth remain eligible. This means that LAYC has lots of heavy lifting to do in order to inform our community about this available form of relief. The committee is dedicated to identifying eligible youth to come out of the shadows and obtain temporary work permits, move forward with their educational goals, and continue to mobilize for DAPA's implementation and comprehensive immigration reform. We must not forget that while DACA opens the door to many previously undocumented youth, it is not a visa, and does not include any direct pathway towards legal permanent residency or citizenship. Join us for a FREE DACA Clinic at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 10th to assist youth and their families in learning about and preparing for DACA applications. With staff and community volunteers, as well as the support of pro bono attorneys, the Clinic will serve to empower our residents and spread information on this critical relief for many immigrant youth in the community. Don't forget to check out LAYC's DACA resource page for more information on local resources, including a link to the LAYC DREAMER Scholarship application to assist with immigration expenses for eligible youth.
LAYC staff lead a recruitment session with students at Cardozo Education Campus.
By Juan Pacheco, Cardozo High School Site Supervisor
LAYC staff show off their recruitment station at Cardozo Education Campus.
It's back to school for LAYC's education team, and we couldn't be more excited! Through our after school program at Cardozo Education Campus, we will work with 55 high school students focusing on academics, college readiness, computer refurbishment, blogging, and guitar among other enrichment activities.
The team this year is amazing! Through ServeDC we have 11 AmeriCorps members ready to tutor, mentor, and motivate our students for the year. Many of our AmeriCorps members are youth who have received services at LAYC, have gone to college, and have returned to give back and gain work experience in youth work and education. Our lead tutor Cynthia McNamara brings a level of integrity to youth work experience that is unparalleled. She is always willing to place the students' needs before all the myriad of logistical work that she oversees. The attention to detail that she gives her activities is refreshing, so much that the students are always excited to see what the next activity Cynthia is going to lead.
On September 2, we kicked off our 2015-2016 recruitment, and I was impressed with my team. They connected with students and practiced the art of outreach/networking. They gathered more than 40 signatures of students interested in our programs, and more importantly, they made genuine connections with them, which is the key to cultivating committed participation from young people.
It is quite amazing the power of giving a bit of love and acknowledgement to these students, whether it be through setting up the recruitment room with so much detail and heart, or working hard to make sure they were surrounded by caring adults. Our celebration was not an outreach tool, but a relational experience where we showed these youth "we see them," and we want to serve them with our best.
I am beyond happy of the diversity we were able to bring in to this first expression of appreciation for our youth. I have much to be grateful for in my team. I am grateful for their courage to try new approaches in youth work, for having faith in the process and my leadership, for going outside of their comfort zones, for not being afraid of shining with their gifts, for handling the unexpected with grace and poise, for confidently voicing their needs, for their patience with me (they will eventually see there is method to my madness), and for serving at Cardozo with so much love!
Our students at Cardozo deserve our best, and we deserve to be our best. Our education department is allowing us to do just that! The hard part is over, so now let's cultivate this community of life-long learners and dreamers.
This is only the beginning...let's do this, family!
Bontu Kumsa, right, and Jordy Portillo at the graduation ceremony for DC-HAPP.
DC-HAPP was an intensive four-week experiential opportunity for rising seniors interested in a career in medicine. Jordy, Bontu, and the other THP students joined other DC youth to work directly with 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. Throughout the program, the youth had an opportunity to hear lectures from medical professionals and students, visited the Veterans Affairs office and spoke to veterans there, had lunch with the deans of GW's medical school, and even had a special white-coat ceremony to honor the youth and their work.
Jordy really enjoyed the lectures on projects various doctors were working on, including research on various illnesses and diseases. He remarked, "I liked learning about iron deficiency or anemia because that affects various members of my family. It was cool to learn about it from the medical side."
Bontu loved the experience of going into GW's cadaver lab and seeing various dissected cadavers. She mentioned that all of the youth were able to practice medical sutures on pigs' feet. These two experiences changed her original goal of becoming an anesthesiologist to wanting to become a surgeon.
Both Bontu and Jordy spoke about how their experience with the Teen Health Promoters prepared them for this program. Jordy appreciated the clinical skills they learned in THP like taking blood pressure, CPR training, and knowledge about HIV/AIDS. Jordy mentioned that doctors were so impressed with their knowledge from THP, stating "medical students don't even know that!" Bontu was assigned to GW's hospital for her internship with THP, so she felt comfortable in the space and felt ahead of other youth in the program. Bontu said that she credits THP for giving her the confidence to talk to various types of people, and that the program helped them bond with staff.
After the program, Bontu, Jordy, and the other youth participants received a $2,500 stipend as well as continued college application assistance. Both students said they wouldn't have been eligible for this amazing experience without their training from THP.
As for their families? "My mom never stopped talking about it. Everyone in my family is proud of me and sees me as the future doctor," Jordy said. Bontu said that her parents are doing the same thing—bragging to everyone. "Now my sister wants to do THP, too!" she said.
Bontu and Jordy are closer than ever to achieving their dreams of becoming physicians. Please consider donating monthly to sustain the Teen Health Promoters program.
Photo by Jacqueline Ruiz, LAYC Teen Center photography student.
By OnRae Watkins, Teen Center Youth Developer
Photo by Jacqueline Ruiz, LAYC Teen Center photography student.
The Teen Center's art and media program were front and center at the Columbia Heights Community Day Fair, Saturday, September 12. A few of our talented youth teamed up with the eclectic arts and community center, BloomBars, and entertained the community with spoken word, emceeing, and musical performance. Roaring applause, hoots and hollers, and a pool of smiling faces surrounded the stage as each performer showcased their talents in the pouring rain.
Hosted under BloomBar's Fun Tent, our young performers were given a 25-minute set that was completely self-designed. A sea of umbrellas stopped in their tracks and moved cautiously toward the tent as our youth proudly presented creative pieces that spoke to their personal interests and contributions to peacebuilding in the community. Nfinity Miles, a local teen band from Bell Multicultural High School, joined our performers on stage and concluded the show with a couple of upbeat acoustic songs that united the audience in a final sing-along.
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.