When Jada came to LAYC as a high school senior, she was working two jobs and focused on being a parent to three younger siblings. She had no parental support, faced many difficulties at school, had low self-esteem, and felt hopeless and defeated.
“I didn’t want to live. I felt defeated. I was done. I felt nothing,” says Jada.
She was overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, and depression, and missed school about 30 times during her senior year. When Jada’s grades dropped and school staff became concerned about her well-being, she was referred to LAYC’s Promotor Pathway® program. Jada received long-term intensive case management and wraparound support from Alison, an LAYC promotor in Jada’s school.
Alison created a safe space and allowed Jada time to feel comfortable and secure to open up, demonstrating genuine interest in how Jada was doing, and what she was going through. Jada recalls, “I didn’t expect Alison to have the impact she did on my life…I never even thought of college as a possibility.”
“I am finding my voice and my strength. I have hope and feel positive about the future. ” – Jada
Alison’s consistent presence was powerful. While receiving guidance and encouragement without judgment, Jada began to prioritize her own mental health and personal needs, and realized that college was an option for her future. She found strength and confidence to advocate for herself with her family, and emerged from her depression. She is now in her first year of college and working toward a healthy adulthood.
Today, Jada feels empowered. “I am finding my voice and my strength. I have hope and feel positive about the future,” she says.
Experiences like Jada’s highlight the importance of the relationships between our promotores and the youth they work with at LAYC. All of LAYC’s promotores have experienced first-hand how a caring, consistent mentor and advocate can illuminate opportunities and spark life-changing growth for a young person. For many of our promotors, watching youth grow is a reminder of the challenges they have experienced in their own lives.
Natalia Diaz is a promotor. She first learned about the organization when she was 15 years old. At the time, she had lost access to housing and was expecting twins. Natalia joined LAYC’s YouthBuild program, where she worked to earn her GED. When Natalia considered leaving the program, the principal sat down with her to talk through options for post-secondary school. The principal was committed to making sure Natalia recognized her worth and potential, and he persisted until he knew that she understood the opportunities and choices available.
“It’s like he took a band away from my eyes, he opened up this thing…what seemed to be a new world and he talked to me about…universities and colleges and scholarships and opportunities and professional growth….It was like he was speaking a whole other language,” says Natalia.
“I imagine that what I feel now for the youth that I work with is something similar that what was felt about me even when I was a participant.” – Natalia
Natalia completed her GED program. Through talking with staff at LAYC, she learned about a college scholarship which helped make the next step in her career possible.
LAYC staff like Natalia understand the joy of providing the same gifts they received to a new generation of youth. As they watch young people achieve remarkable personal and academic milestones and become leaders in their communities, they bear witness to the circle of giving.
“It’s the most beautiful thing to see someone…in the particular point in their life when they come to you, and to see how far they can go,” says Natalia. “I imagine that what I feel now for the youth that I work with is something similar that what was felt about me even when I was a participant.”
The entire LAYC family is so thankful to all of our supporters for giving the gifts of joy and opportunity to our youth, and for being part of the circle of giving within our community. Ongoing community support makes the goals of our young people reachable. Through your contributions to LAYC, you spread joy by providing opportunities for youth to fulfill their hopes and dreams.
Individual contributions this past year helped over 5,000 LAYC youth in DC and Maryland. These gifts provided housing connections, academic assistance, case management, job training, and other essential resources and supports to ensure each young person will realize a healthy future.