Sometimes the best way to instill a sense of worth into youth who are troubled or struggling is to offer a hands-on work opportunity where they can learn and grow surrounded by caring adults who believe in them.
The specifics don’t really matter.
The program can focus on cooking or art or sports or philanthropy. Participants may indeed end up as chefs, museum quality artists or generous donors.
Or they may not.
The true objective has as much to do with social and emotional health as it does with skill building. These types of programs have proven successful in giving teens and young adults a sense of self and purpose that directs them away from destructive behaviors and guides them on a path that is productive and positive.
We’ve been pleased to support many such progams in MetroWest. A few include:
Tempo Young Adult Resource Center/Green House Graphics, a program of Wayside Youth and Family Support Network
While trying their hand at painting, drawing, graphic design and other art forms, the young adults in this program gain satisfying creative, technical, business and social skills. A supportive teacher and other staff keep youth on track by providing clear rules and setting individual goals.
The Food Project
Each summer 100 youth from diverse backgrounds come together to grow sustainable produce on urban and suburban farms while developing important leadership, teamwork, diversity, and civic participation skills. This (literally) down and dirty program is led by a team of counselors who make the experience fun, worthwhile and, in many cases, transformative.
Cooking up a Culinary Career, a joint project of Employment Options and Quinsigamond Community College.
This culinary certificate program enables young adults with mental health issues to acquire back-of-the-house kitchen skills in a supportive community. Sensitive handholding by staff enable students with a variety of challenges to be successful.
Youth in Philanthropy, a program of the Foundation for MetroWest
While learning about grantmaking and actually awarding funds to nonprofit agencies, these high school students gain skills in leadership, public speaking, fundraising, teamwork, budgeting and building consensus. Staff sets a collegial tone that enables the teens to bond with one another and, at the same time, learn more about themselves.
Strong youth development programs provide meaningful engagements. Our region could benefit from more programs like these.
Photo courtesy of Lacey Raper