Tag Archives: youth empowerment

EMPOWER’D

Showcasing Musical Performances, Dance, Spoken Word, and MORE!!!

Featuring Special Guest Appearances and Performances from Dance Theater of Harlem, and many MORE!!!

FRIDAY DECEMBER 2ND, 2011

7:00PM – 10:00PM
ARONOW THEATER
The City College of New York
160 Convent Avenue (@136th Street)
New York, NY 10031

Tickets: FREE Admission | $25 VIP Seats- CLICK To BUY
Donations are Highly Encouraged and Appreciated

For Group RSVP, Please contact Re:LIFE Inc @ 347.450.1201 or email relife@relifeinc.org

Theme
The Theme of the EMPOWER’D Event is ‘Empowerment Through The Arts, Education and Entrepreneurship’, and as such will feature performances in the Arts, as well the impact of Entrepreneurship on youth. There will also be the sales/silent auction of highly coveted autographed items like an autographed Mohammed Ali Lithograph, a Paul McCartney autographed album, BB King and U2 autographed guitars and MORE!!!

Purpose
The purpose of the event is four fold:
1. To draw attention to the problems of youth disconnection, youth poverty, educational disadvantage and opportunity divide
2. To raise funds to starts tackling these problems through Re:LIFE Inc’s programs
3. To increase visibility for Re:LIFE Inc and its programs in our community and New York City as a whole, so that the people who need its services have access to them
4. To unveil our new campaign called ‘The $1 Change Project’.

Advertise: To place an ad in the playbill, please contact Re:LIFE Inc @ 347.450.1206 or email relife@relifeinc.org. Click for  Playbill_Ad_Rates.

Sponsorship: To Sponsor this event or other Re:LIFE Inc events, please contact Re:LIFE Inc @ 347.450.1206 or email relife@relifeinc.org. Click for EMPOWER’D_Sponsorship options.

About Re:LIFE Inc
Re:LIFE Inc is a 501c3 Organization that is dedicated to empowering youth through entrepreneurship and education.  We believe that the positive engagement of the mind is the precursor to achieving excellence. Therefore, in empowering youth both educationally and through entrepreneurship, we don’t just mean through traditional academics, but also through nutrition, fitness, talents, interests, explorations and all that positively empower youth.

For more about Re:LIFE Inc, please visit our website www.relifeinc.org

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Occupied With Inequality

Day 9 Occupy Wall Street September 25 2011 Sha...

While hundreds of people occupy Wall Street, calling on the 99% to stand up against the 1%, inequality has become the new buzzword.  But is income and wealth inequality only a recent issue, unique to a small group of 20-somethings in the 2000’s?  Of course not, economic injustice and inequality of opportunity have plagued the United States, and especially the African-American community, since its founding.  However, a slow-to-thaw recession and diminishing opportunities for work have motivated a different population to mobilize against the economic injustices they are only now beginning to feel.

While incomes have generally risen in the United States in the past decades, incomes for African-Americans have risen at a slower rate than their white counterparts. This income disparity carries into future generations, as parents struggle to provide proper housing, food, healthcare and education for their children.  Hiring discrimination persists as African-Americans tend be chosen less often for the same jobs than do European Americans or Caucasians.  Income inequality then is the cumulative result of a series of factors, that begin with the inability to obtain higher paying jobs and the forced segregation of low-income housing.

Unrelenting income inequality has not been the result of overt, institutionalized oppression or segregation, but rather, is caused by more subtle forces that begin with minor prejudices and take shape in discriminatory lending, redlining, skewed school district lines and many other socioeconomic factors.

As depicted in the chart of median personal income by race and education from the 2006 Census and the graph published by the U.S. Census Bureau on Median Household Income across race, the average incomes of African-Americans are consistently less than white Americans, even at levels of higher education, and decades after the Civil Rights movement.

Race

Median personal income

Overall Median

High school graduate

Some college

Bachelor’s degree or higher

Bachelor’s degree

Masters degree

 Adv.

degrees

White M $40,432 $33,805 $40,427 $61,175 $55,129 $67,903 $77,818
F $26,636 $21,306 $25,190 $40,161 $36,076 $45,555 $56,759
Both $32,919 $27,291 $31,510 $49,879 $43,841 $52,244 $71,184
Black M $30,549 $25,747 $32,758 $46,474 $41,889 $52,488 N/A
F $25,435 $20,366 $25,574 $42,461 $41,263 $45,830 N/A
Both $27,110 $22,328 $27,589 $44,460 $41,565 $47,407 $61,993

Income inequality in the United States is an old story, especially for African-Americans.  So, why organize now?  And who are the occupiers down in Zuccotti Park?

With one tenth of the population unemployed, and far more underemployed, with growing foreclosures, looming personal debt and little promise that change is on the horizon, there is a conviction among many that, perhaps, they have been slighted: enter “The Occupiers”.

Zuccotti Park finds itself teeming with primarily young people, who are primarily white.  They represent a group of people who have grown up believing that a college education, which they obtained without much obstruction, would secure them some financial stability and even a job after graduation.  Feeling duped by society’s promise, they see exorbitant bonuses for CEOs and the big bank bailouts as unjust in the face of their plight.

In many ways, lower Manhattan’s Occupy Wall Street is about the economic injustices that a young population of people has only begun to experience.  Meanwhile, the African-American community has been party to a more pervasive inequality for decades.  The income gap as displayed in the graph above points to the consistent income inequality that African American’s have felt, with no trend suggesting that this gap will soon close.

So it seemed inevitable that an Occupy Harlem would sprout up, as it did on Friday October 28, 2011, at St. Phillip’s Church in Central Harlem.  While the Occupy Harlem borrows from the “blueprint” of Occupy Wall Street grievances, it addresses, more specifically, the historic plight of inequality for African-Americans.  In addition to income inequality and corporate power, Occupy Harlem will bring into dialogue contemporary humanitarian issues in Africa as well as local issues of discrimination such as the “Stop and Frisk” policy that deeply concerns the Harlem community.

Beyond exercising the rights of free speech and organization through Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Harlem, it is imperative to break the cycle of inequality by providing mentoring programs for the inner city’s youth.  Especially important are the programs that work to build entrepreneurial skills among disconnected youth.

As young community members gain a foothold by building their own successful businesses, they foster employment in the community, provide a stable local source of income for community members, and become role models themselves, all the while, working toward bridging the overwhelming inequality gap with which we are so occupied today.

As the occupiers in Zuccotti Park remind us, it is the younger generation that must stand up and demand change, because they are the ones who stand to benefit most from a more just, less impoverished society.  Whether through education, entrepreneurship or social action, the city’s youth must step up and work together to gain their foothold in society!

To learn more about Re:LIFE’s upcoming event in Harlem: Click EMPOWER’D

 
 By Amy Richards
Re:LIFE Inc Writer
Related articles

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Filed under Education, Entrepreneurship, Minority Issues, Re:LIFE Inc, ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment

Improving Youth Academic Performance through Sports

People are now beginning to recognize the importance of mental attributes such as confidence, composure, focus, and motivation in the performance of athletes. The possession of these qualities is required for the “mental toughness” necessary for sports aptitude. As a result, finding ways to enhance athletic performance and the acquisition of these traits has become an essential and now emerging career track. Within the field of psychology, a branch has been established to deal strictly with the relationship between sports and mental processes— Sport Psychology is the study of the psychological factors that affect participation and performance in sports. Psychological principles such as positive thinking and goal setting can be applied in sports to help athletes perform better and be well prepared for competition. The participation of youths in sports, therefore, is highly recommended because it builds critical skills they will use on the sports field, in school, and in life.

Athletes which have the qualities of mental toughness have the ability to move on after their mistakes, maintain confidence and composure in the face of adversity, and focus on what is needed to execute each task successfully. Professionals in the field of Sport Psychology aim to increase athletic performance by reducing the psychological effects of poor performance and instilling the mental skill needed to attain peak performance. This is accomplished through mental training. Mental training is about improving one’s attitude and mental skills while understanding the mental barriers that hinder performance. These barriers include high expectations, perfectionism, fear of failure, and lack of emotional control and focus.

Schools are highly recommended to include sports into their curriculums and mandate physical education because this increases mental strength and also active involvement in one’s school. Thus, participation in sports can improve performance in all areas of school. It has been discovered that youths who engage in physical activity five or more times a week are more likely to perform better in math and science than the rest of their peers; participating in sports in high school is related to improved English and math scores; sports participation is associated with lower high school drop-out rates; high school athletes are more likely to have a positive relationship with their schools; and that high school athletes are more likely to attend college.

For years, researchers have known that there is a connection between youth involvement in school sports and success later in life. Sports psychology is a very practical discipline and its application in school systems is widely encouraged.

Sources:
What is Mental Training
Economists Link Athletics to Success in School, Job Markets
Facts About Youth Sports and Educational Outcomes

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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Filed under Education, Entrepreneurship, Global Youth, Minority Issues, Re:LIFE Inc, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment

Pathways to Success: Immigrant Youth at High School Part II

Throughout the Pathways to Success research project, participants were asked for suggestions or recommendations that would lead to increased success for immigrant youth in high school. The suggestions are organized by stakeholder group: youth, parents and family, schools, school boards, the provincial educational system and the community. They are the culmination of all the information gathered during the interviews, the focus group meetings, and the community forum.

Youth:

What immigrant youth in high school can do to improve their own success:

  1. Patience and perseverance and most importantly, being unafraid to ask for help. Although the process may take some time and courage, immigrant youth must develop goals and reach out to others for the support they need to accomplish those goals.
  2. Make friends strategically. Immigrant youth should associate with peers who share similar goals and values. They serve as a support group by helping the youth maintain focus and providing motivation when faced with challenges.
  3. Get involved. Immigrant youth should explore the extracurricular activities available in their school. This will help with meeting new people and getting accustomed to the country’s culture.
  4. Maintain Self-confidence. Immigrant youth should believe in their own skills and abilities when faced with challenges. Often overlooked, optimism is an important factor in succeeding in school.
  5. Communicate with parents. Even though families are often stressed themselves, immigrant youth must preserve their connection with their parents. At home, they are their support group.

What native students can do to help immigrant youth:

  1. Being friendly and open-minded. Students should approach the newcomer, involve them as much as possible, and be empathetic about their experiences.

Parents and Family:

What parents and family members can do to get more involved with helping immigrant youth succeed in school:

  1. Get involved: Parents should try to attend parent-teacher conferences regularly, talk to guidance counselors, join the parent council, or volunteer in the school. They must also take steps to inform themselves about their child’s education.
  2. Encourage youths in school. Parents should inquire about how their child is doing in school, take an active interest in their child’s education and pass on to them the value of an education.
  3. Be understanding. The research participants spoke about the difficulty parents have in accepting the changes in their children as a result of living in a new country and experiencing a different culture. Parents should try to be understanding about these changes and communicate with their children throughout this process.

Schools:

What individual schools can do to accommodate to immigrant youth:

  1. Develop peer mentoring programs. Research participants discussed the benefits of matching the immigrant youth with another student who can understand their challenges. Mentors can reduce isolation and introduce the youth to new people and activities.
  2. Increasing openness and understanding. Students, teachers and principals should take part in educational activities that can prepare them for a more diverse student population. They should be aware of their impact on immigrant youth and practice openness and understanding to make them feel comfortable.
  3. Develop communication strategies and partnerships with parents. Parents may be excluded from their children’s high school experience when they are not aware of how they are to communicate with teachers and principals or if they face language barriers in communicating with them. Schools need to develop strategies that will enable parents to participate more and to inform them regularly about their children’s education.
  4. Increase social opportunities for immigrant youth. Immigrant youth need to be aware of and have access to social opportunities with other students within the school.  This will help them develop stronger social networks, understand the culture of their new country and orient them to the type of activities that are available to them.
  5. Develop leadership opportunities. Immigrant youth must be encouraged to assume leadership roles to increase their involvement and opportunities within the school. This can also provide valuable growth and learning for both immigrant youth and native students and can increase full student representation in decision making.
  6. Develop a welcoming, representative environment. Schools should be a place where all students feel represented and valued. Steps should be taken to incorporate these qualities into schools so that they are structurally, behaviorally and visually more welcoming.

School Boards:

What school boards can do to make meaningful changes in the learning environment:

  1. Hire qualified, quality teachers. Hiring practices should prioritize teachers who understand diversity issues and the various needs of their students, and teachers who are representative of the student population. Current teachers should be properly trained on diversity issues and be acknowledged and supported for their commitment to these efforts.
  2. Increase multi-cultural training of teachers. Teachers are not always prepared for working with diverse populations, or properly educated on the issues and realities that accompany immigrant youth when they arrive in a foreign country. Mandatory training for teachers should be incorporated into all schools.
  3. Increase subsidies and make them more available to immigrant youth. Make sure that immigrant youth are aware of subsidies for books and extra-curricular activities.
  4. Provide orientation for the parents. An orientation will ensure that parents are well informed when their children enroll in school.

Provincial Education System:

What system-level changes should be made regarding the success of immigrant youth in high school:

  1. Increase funding for partnerships between schools and community organizations: Partnerships between schools and community programs such as the YMCA settlement services are of great value to immigrant families. Strengthening these partnerships will benefit schools, families and communities.
  2. Incorporate a more comprehensive ESL program: Research participants suggested changes to the current ESL curriculum, such as positioning grammar as a central component of their ESL learning priorities in order to improve their written and verbal skills.
  3. Value quality education for all youth: Ideas about quality education should consider what each child requires in order to complete high school successfully. This should be an ongoing message within government and communities especially for youth who experience an “education gap” from going in and out of school in their home countries. Strategies should be explored so that these youth are not pushed out of the high school system before they are ready to leave.
  4. Develop support for parents: There should be a designated contact that can ensure families get the information they need when they arrive.
  5. Offer more support, programs, and time for immigrant families: After families arrive, they should be given more support in transitioning their children into school.

Communities:

What communities can do:

  1. Be more welcoming: Communities should work to increase understanding of immigrants and to welcome them as an important part of the social, cultural and economic make-up of the community.
  2. Acknowledge the potential and skills of immigrants: Communities should be open to the skills, abilities and credentials of immigrants and support them in finding employment.
  3. Adapt to the changing population: Communities should be open, flexible and adaptive to the immigrant population.
  4. Increase immigrant-friendly policies and representation of immigrants in the community: Immigrants should be adequately represented in decision-making roles in communities to ensure appropriate input into policies and other decisions that affect them.
  5. Make immigrant youth aware of positive role models: Communities should help connect immigrant youth with positive role models that can provide them with mentorship and confidence in themselves.

This research illustrates the complexity of the immigrant youth experience and how little is currently being done to accommodate their situation. Immigrant families generally have high expectations of what a foreign education can provide for them. Yet, there are many challenges preventing the fulfillment of these expectations. The active participation of schools, school boards, communities, etc. can greatly reduce this and consequently ease high-school drop-out rates and increase the success of high schools.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/3c7vv23

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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Pathways to Success: Immigrant Youth at High School Part I

In diverse cities like New York there is a greater chance that older immigrant youth, without the time to learn and the ability to speak fluent English, will drop out of high school. Also, discrimination; social and geographic isolation; little or no work experience; and lower levels of English proficiency make it even more difficult for older immigrant youth to find employment—thus resulting in disconnection. Immigrants comprise 30% of high school drop-outs in the Unites States. In Canada—the location of the Pathways to Success: Immigrant Youth at High School research project—studies on immigrant youth show that alarmingly high numbers, 46% to 74% in some areas, do not complete high school.

The Pathways to Success research project was a partnership between the Center for Research and Education in Human Services (CREHS) and Wilfrid Laurier University and was conducted in 2006. The Waterloo region of Canada was used as a case study to explore factors that can maximize social and academic accomplishment in immigrant youth attending high school. The project builds on past research by providing in-depth insights into the immigrant youth experience in high school—their challenges, desires, and attitudes to their situation— in order to offer concrete “pathways of success” rooted in the experiences of the immigrant students themselves. The study was centered on youth aged 16 to 20 who had been living in Canada at most five years. The surveyed students where from four ethno-cultural backgrounds: Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan; Northeast Africa; Spanish-speaking Latin America; and the former Yugoslavia.

The project emerged from the increasing concerns about the standing of immigrant youth when they arrive in Canada because the drop-out rates have created challenges for school boards, educators, and communities. Waterloo was an ideal location because it is a mid-sized urban community with a high immigrant population. The researchers’ hope is that their work can be applicable to other communities.

Collecting Data

The questions that guided this study were:

  1. What factors help and hinder positive social and academic outcomes for immigrant youth in high school?
    • What enables them to succeed in school?
    • What prevents them from succeeding in school?
    • What contributes to the desire to either stay in school or leave?
  2. What are the current promising practices or success stories?
  3. What role should peers, families, educational institutions, and the community-at-large play in facilitating positive academic and social outcomes for immigrant youth in school?
  4. What policy instruments and program models within the school system would maximize positive academic and social outcomes for immigrant youth in school?

Methods of gathering information:

  1. Ten key informant interviews with school board trustees/senior administrators, student leaders, parents serving on the Parent Council, ESL teacher, and other community leaders: The purpose of these interviews was to address the guiding questions from different perspectives.
  2. Eight focus groups with immigrant youth, parents of the immigrant youth, and high school teachers: The information gathered in the key informant interviews helped to frame further questions to ask the focus group participants.
  3. Ten in-depth individual interviews with immigrant youth.
  4. A community forum attended by approximately 160 participants including youth, teachers, service providers, government representatives, families, and other interested citizens: The purpose of this was to present the study’s findings and to mobilize the community in the development of a set of strategies to ensure greater success of immigrant youth in high schools.

Research Findings

The results of this study were organized under sections that emerged from the data: the first impression immigrant youth have once arriving in Canada; what enables immigrant youth to have positive experiences in school; and what factors hinder positive experiences.

1. First Impressions

In general, youth and parents both spoke of the opportunities available in Canada, as well as the challenges and stresses related to adapting to a new home. In regard to the school system, some immigrant youth spoke positively about their first impressions and experiences of high school. For them, high school offered new benefits and opportunities not available in their native countries (e.g., more freedoms, better preparation for post-secondary education). Yet other youth also described their first experience of high school as a time of intense confusion and disorientation. This was especially the case for youth who struggled with English when they first arrived.

2. What Enables Positive Outcomes

The enabling factors are organized under three main categories: individual and family level, institutional level and community level. The individual and family level included self-motivation, family support, peer support, and friendships. The institutional level included supportive teachers and principals, consistent and quality education, and specific school, or school-community support systems. On the community level, enabling factors included community support services.

3. What Hinders Positive Outcomes

There are three main categories: individual and family level, institutional level, and socio-political level. Although presented as individual factors, quite often participants reported that a combination of factors led to negative outcomes for youth in high school. On the individual level, the hindering factors were difficulties fitting in to high school culture; the trauma and stress of escaping from war or violence in their native countries; their parents’ unemployment; and parent-child role reversal. The institutional level included unwelcoming school culture and climate; inadequate resources and support systems in school; and difficulties with the school system and meeting academic requirements. The socio-economic level included gaps in education and lack of fluency in English; and teasing and bullying from their peers.

With all this information, the researchers were able to devise a set of recommendations to improve the immigrant experience in high school and possibly reduce drop-out rates.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/3c7vv23

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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Filed under Global Youth, Youth, Youth Empowerment

Bringing Together Diverse Methods of Re-engagement: The HEROES Model Part II

As previously mentioned, the five programs explored by the Youth Adult Capacity Initiative (case studies) are programs located in neighborhoods that are densely populated with disconnected youth. Even though they were successful in different areas of youth development, their impact could easily be drowned in these same communities if they are not able to effectively influence a larger percentage of the demographic in order to effect visible change. These programs and better ones should be replicated and funded, to exponentially increase impact. As such, the HEROES (Heritage, Education, Relationship, Opportunity, Entrepreneurship and Sports) model is a hybrid of these programs, inter-networked with the Liberty-LEADS model for catering to at-risk youth, through consistent positive engagement and support. In developing this model, the founders of Re:LIFE sought for successful strategies and plans that have worked at different programs, and through personal experience dealing with this population. This model was applied in the development of the Re:LIFE Reengagement Program for Disconnected Youth.

Understanding the HEROES Model is important to effectively implementing it:

Heritage: For many immigrants, who cannot communicate effectively in English, it is important to teach the appreciation of cultures and peoples. This creates a sense of community among participants, which could help retention rates, as well as enthusiasm to learn about other cultures and English language in order to succeed educationally and otherwise. One’s knowledge of their heritage has the ability to empower them, build confidence and pride, and excite learning. In order to successfully impact youth, it is imperative that they learn about their cultures, history, experiences and about heroes of their heritage who have or share similar journeys in achieving success.

Education: This is one of the most important solutions to curbing disconnection. As with the Liberty LEADS program, positively engaging disconnected youth six times a week, will keep them busy, expand their horizons and opportunities, as well as reduce crimes associated with being idle. This was constantly explored throughout all five case studies, and plays a crucial role in shaping policies affecting disconnected youth. However, many of these studies only engaged youth for three to five hours per day and three to four times a week. This still leaves room for a relapse back into activities and environments that encourage disconnection and crime. It is therefore necessary to explore and constantly implement new educational strategies that engage youth over longer periods of time during the day and week, with an incentive or rewards approach, that prove successful. This will involve understanding their interests, talents, skills and preferences, (e.g. music, dance, theater, spoken word/rap, photography etc.) and channeling them into their daily/weekly activities.

Relationships: As seen from the challenges of the explored programs, providing just GED and job readiness programs are not sufficient to thwart the effects of disconnection. One has to fully understand youth in order to effectively serve them. This involves, building a “relationship of trust” through counseling, one-on-one mentoring and creating an environment of trust to help foster success. Also healthy relationships teach these youth how to interact with other people, which is necessary for successful transition into society. As such, it is gainful to incorporate relationship-based classes like conflict resolution in the community, constructive debate and communication, anti-violence, community leadership and peer-mentoring classes. These classes could be offered in partnership with higher institutions to help students acquire certificates or diplomas as they go through the program.

Opportunity: It is necessary to create job opportunities for disconnected youth to help motivate them out of disconnection. This involves job training that could lead to career jobs, programs and incentives that would motivate students to explore different skills, talents and services that might enhance their opportunities. Rewarded internships, apprenticeship, vocational training and work-study programs must be part of a youth development program to help encourage and motivate youth in transitioning. As previously said, programs that involve the acquisition of certificates and diplomas for completed courses will actually make participants more marketable as they pass through the program.

Entrepreneurship: As an advocate of youth Entrepreneurship, I have learned that it is important that we teach youth how to provide for themselves through their interests, talents and skills they may possess. One of the major concerns for disconnected youth is earning a wage or making money. As such, teaching and coaching them to monetize ideas that interest them will help empower them, while encouraging them to diligently pursue other goals like education. There are several disconnected male and female youth involved in illegal business dealings, which if guided and taught how to, could create legitimate businesses that would provide for them and their families.

Sports: Physical fitness and nutritional health is very crucial in helping curb disconnection because most jobs that do not require four year degrees like construction, healthcare and transportation would require youth to be fit and in good health. As such, an effective program should incorporate nutrition and fitness training in its curriculum.

HEROES is a model that will impact youth positively and help curb disconnection because it is a hybrid of techniques that have worked in different programs, which are currently impacting minority, disconnected youth lives. The Re:LIFE Reengagement Program is one that ideally employs the HEROES model of success. With the proper funding and acquisition of the required materials, Re:LIFE will be able to positively affect the lives of disconnected youth in NYC and help revolutionize the socio-economic state of high-poverty communities like Harlem.

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Bringing Together Diverse Methods of Re-engagement: The HEROES Model Part I

There are a number of nonprofit and community organizations that provide different services aimed at empowering youth—from health, to education, to criminal justice, etc. Some of these organizations offer more than one service and have succeeded in impacting youth more effectively than others. In order to successfully resolve the problem of youth disconnection, it is important that effective programs be identified and supported. This will help allocate funding more efficiently as well as increase the impact of these programs. The Young Adult Capacity Initiative (YACI) conducted case studies a few years ago to explore the effectiveness of five programs located in New York City neighborhoods that are densely populated with disconnected youth. Re:LIFE is based upon the HEROES model of disconnection—a unique model that incorporates the findings of these studies by merging successful tactics of other youth reconnection programs and avoiding their mistakes.

The Youth Development Institute (YDI) funded five community-based agencies in NYC’s highly concentrated “disconnected youth” neighborhoods to create programs that would address the needs of this demographic. YDI saw the need for programs that would assist young adults in finishing their education, learning basic occupational skills, finding jobs and learning the skills and attitudes necessary to keep the job. In addition, they included that these programs needed to provide a range of services beyond GED classes and help with resume writing and interview skills. The five programs established by YDI included Cypress Hills Youth LEAD, East Side House Settlement, El Camino, Sesame Flyers International, and New Heights Neighborhood Center. These were the programs YACI examined in their case studies.

Outtakes From the Case Studies:

Case 1 (Brooklyn) Cypress Hills Youth LEAD (Learning, Educating others, and Achieving Dreams) Program:

This was an initiative within the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC) in East New York. East New York is in eastern Brooklyn, a part of Brooklyn plagued with high crime rates and violence, high disconnection rates, poverty and low educational attainment. The Cypress Hill LEAD Program initially provided GED preparation classes, weekly employment workshops and social events. It later added a job readiness workshop and counseling aspects of youth development. The main challenge of the Youth LEAD program as indicated by its operators was addressing the high level of support needed by their disconnected youth population. According to some of the staff, they believed that they were only “scratching the surface” of what services they needed to offer. Of the 430 young adults who enrolled in the program since its inception in 2002, 87 registered for the GED, 75 took the exam, 45 received their GEDs and 95 have obtained a job. While there has been some success to the program, its success rate could be better.

Case 2 (Bronx) East Side House Settlement (ESHS):

This was the second study, located in Mott Haven, the Nation’s poorest Congressional District. Its population has very high unemployment rates, low graduation rates and very high disconnection rates. The emphasis of the program at East Side House was on relationship building with youths and retention strategies.ESHS incorporated activities like having students call fellow absent classmates, changing their orientation process, providing counseling and making referrals to other programs if needed as techniques to improve student retention and success rates. Their major challenge was in understanding the needs of this demographic in order to effectively support them. Of 262 students in 2005, 37 took the GED test and passed, 33 obtained jobs. Once again, 37 out of 262 is a low percent success rate.

Case 3 (Harlem – Upper Manhattan) El Camino (the Path):

El Camino was a program at The Harlem’s Children Zone (HCZ) in Central Harlem. Central Harlem is one of New York City’s most poor neighborhoods, with a child poverty rate of 39 percent and plagued with several social ills like poor housing, domestic violence, child abuse, failing educational standards etc. Regular attendance to the GED program was a major problem for this program. Being that its disconnected youth had been out of school for longer periods of time, it affected their attendance rates. Also, having an open policy system of admittance made it difficult to effectively cater to students at a consistent rate and diluted the educational effect of the system. Even though HCZ has been nationally honored for being one of the country’s “most effective and innovative community-building and youth development organizations”, and has achieved great success with in-school youth, the director of the program admitted that their original projected outcomes for the program were entirely unrealistic and did not reflect the reality of what it means to work with this population.

Case 4 (Brooklyn) Sesame Flyers International (SFI):

SFI is a nonprofit organization that operates various cultural, recreational and educational youth development programs in and around the Greater East Flatbush community in Brooklyn. It was founded by Caribbean immigrants to offer their children a place and an opportunity to learn about their cultural heritage. The program instituted at SFI was tagged “Get R.I.C.H”, (meaning Reaching Individuals to Change Humanity). The goal of the Get RICH program was to expose youth to different employment skill-building workshops and one-on-one employment counseling. Furthermore, SFI provided programs such as social and recreational activities (basketball and dance), GED classes, a youth employment program, counseling by case workers and peer support. They met three hours a day, four days a week. During these four days, participants got to meet with staff members once a week. They were trained in job readiness skills, resume building, job search skills, interviewing techniques and computer training. They also instituted a Career Make Over cycle of thirteen weeks—six weeks of training and seven weeks of job searching.

According to SFI, their biggest challenge was defining their target population for the Employment Program because according to them, “there were many subgroups embedded within the disconnected youth group”. The Get R.I.C.H program had only delivered services to 33 youth after the completion of their second Career Make Over cycles. They averaged 8 students per cycle per location, for which success data was not released.

Case 5 (Washington Heights – Upper Manhattan) New Heights Neighborhood Center (NHNC):

NHNC is located in Washington Heights/ Inwood section of upper Manhattan, and has the largest enclave of Dominican immigrants in New York City.The Washington Heights region of upper Manhattan houses a community also plagued with high disconnection rates, unemployment and gang violence. The goal of NHNC was to establish a working relationship between disconnected youth and local businesses in the area. It’s main challenge as it identified was understaffing, and the return of students who were seeking educational, instead of employment goals.

Unfortunately, while this organization succeeded in establishing relationships with local organizations for the benefit of their youth, it seemed to be more centered on providing menial jobs and employment for students, instead striving to educate them as well. Sometimes there is an underlying belief that the youths are not really “cut-out” for education, so instead of “wasting time” trying to persuade or encourage them, finding them menial jobs is deemed a better route to results. As reported by YACI, of 487 students served by the end of 2005, 167 obtained jobs, 207 enrolled in a GED program, and only 28 passed the GED exam. While any success is good, the educational component of this program was dismal, and calls into question the long-term benefits of the program.

The HEROES model for success stands for Heritage, Education, Relationship, Opportunity, Entrepreneurship and Sports. One problem of the five case studies and their results was the fact that most of the programs dealt with one or at most three aspects of the HEROES model. This in turn translated to referrals (if done at all) to other programs. The negative implication of this is that youth might get discouraged if the services at the referred program fall short of warming or effective. Another problem was the lack of an effective tracking method. The inability to track students, who even though they obtain their GED might need help obtaining work or applying to college, dilutes the effort invested in helping those youths in the first place.

Also, the pressure to raise adequate funds by many of these organizations resulted in a redirection of focus for many of them. In a bid to stay afloat financially, programs gradually start to treat participants as statistics/data necessary for fundraising, instead of individuals with colluded problems in need of help. This problem is the main reason why many students are increasingly being cared for at a minimal rate. The provision of GED classes and some job readiness program have become the threshold for measuring success of disconnected youth services, which unfortunately have done little to resolve this enormous and growing problem.  This is why the implementation and duplication of the HEROES model cannot be over-emphasized.

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