While many of our youth were the recipients of tremendous generosity this holiday season, some were also paying it forward and brightening the lives of others.
Before the holidays, members of the Youth Council at our El Nido residential campus were looking for ways that they could give back to the community. Some members of the group have personally experienced homelessness with their families prior to coming to Hathaway-Sycamores. As the boys shared their moving stories of life on skid row, the group decided that they wanted to help the homeless. Their goal was to collect 100 sweaters and 100 blankets to keep 100 bodies warm this winter. The Youth Council reached out to staff on campus and agency wide, soliciting donations of new and gently used sweaters and blankets. Their efforts paid off as they exceeded their goal and collected 130 sweaters and 100 blankets for a local homeless shelter.
The Youth Leadership at our Family Resource Center in Highland Park also focused on giving to others last month. The group decided to visit the York Healthcare and Wellness Center, a local senior convalescent facility, two days before Christmas. Both the teens and seniors enjoyed themselves playing Mexican Loteria, a game similar to Bingo, and singing Christmas songs. The youth also gave the seniors gift bags and prizes. The time they spent together was beneficial for both the seniors and teens. They had fun, shared some laughs and made new friends during the visit.
The Family Resource Center’s Youth Leadership Program and El Nido’s Youth Council are important programs at Hathaway-Sycamores. They encourage youth, transitioning from children to young adults, to take the lead in community life and to think about the needs of other people, not just their own.
El Nido’s Youth Council provides the residential youth with a voice. It is a platform for them to speak up about anything. Initially, some of the boys were reluctant to speak, they didn’t believe that they would be heard and that changes could be made based on their input. Now they know their opinions matter, they are innovators with creative minds and their decisions dictate a lot of what happens on the campus. The group is open to all, but there is a screening process and joining the Youth Council is a commitment. The boys understand that to be on the Youth Council means that they are leaders and role models on campus.
At our Family Resource Center the Youth Leadership Program partners youth with community leaders and promotes community involvement. The goal is for the youth to develop leadership skills, and become decision-making, problem-solving citizens. Youth participate in leadership development workshops, learning the how individuals interact with institutions in their communities to create change. They prepare for civic engagement through project-based service opportunities, allowing them to practice the skills they are learning in a supportive environment. The idea to visit the York Healthcare and Wellness Center came out of one of their bi-monthly planning meetings. The youth located the facility, prepared the gift bags, and planned and coordinated the activities for the visit.
At Hathaway-Sycamores we are very impressed with the youth in both of these programs and have high hopes for their future successes.