In an effort to empower more at-risk youth to become leaders of positive change in their communities, World Vision U.S. Programs is in the process of changing it delivery model for the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP). The new model will focus on scalability and will continue to provide curriculum and training support for organizations such as schools, churches, and community based organizations that serve youth. The YEP program has empowered many vulnerable youth to become advocates for their communities and realize their own potential for leadership. It has also encouraged these young people to continue their education as they envision their future.
Participation in the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) program enables vulnerable teens to realize their own ability to be leaders and agents of change.:
Norn, 20, has overcome many obstacles to get where he is today, leaving behind the negative influence of family and friends to pursue a brighter future. “He has grown so much in the years that I've known him. He was someone who disappeared in the crowd, was surrounded by the negative influences of gang affiliation, participating in the consumption of drugs and alcohol, and experiencing difficulties in his home life while not being with his mother or father,” says Sheryl Blessing, World Vision youth development specialist.
Through a variety of interactions, World Vision has been instrumental in assisting him in making positive decisions in his life. In 2007, Norn was a middle school student participating in a drug and alcohol prevention program through Consejo Counseling & Referral Service, a World Vision community partner in Tacoma. Through KidREACH, World Vision’s tutoring and mentoring program, Norn received one-on-one mentoring support while he was in treatment and continued to participate through ninth grade.
Norn got involved with World Vision’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) in 2010. Through YEP he began building healthy peer relationships, deepened his understanding about who he is, and worked on policy recommendations to improve educational opportunities in his community. In 2011, he attended the National YEP Summit in Washington D.C., meeting youth from all over the country who shared similar experiences.
Norn graduated from high school and served on YEP’s Local Youth Advisory Council in Tacoma. He currently attends community college and is a YEP fellow, earning a small stipend for helping to mentor Tacoma YEP groups.
“Through his engagement with us, he has found a family who accepts him for who he is, has been held accountable for his actions, and has continuously been encouraged to further his abilities,” says Sheryl. “Although he is currently homeless, he is still going to college, pursuing a higher education, and seeing a positive future for himself.”
On PNW Lobby and Action Day held on Sunday, January 27, 2013, over 100 vulnerable youth (ages 14-18) went to the Washington State capitol to talk to their legislators. The youth were all participants in World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP), a leadership program for vulnerable youth. YEP empowers youth to be the voice of change in their own communities through civic engagement such as this legislative summit to advocate to public officials.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) was World Vision's primary partner in this local summit in Olympia. Four YEP affiliates or partner organizations also participated in the event, as well as the Local Youth Advisory Council (LAYC) which is comprised of YEP graduates.
To prepare for the summit, all the participating youth attended workshops on Saturday to learn about creative activisim and youth/adult parternships. The World Vision team comprised of staff and LYAC youth led the workshops much of the day. This team also led an exercise with the entire group of youth focusing on sharing their stories about their communities. OSPI and a Senate representative led an extensive workshop with the entire group focusing on how a bill becomes a law. OSPI had also organized a visit/tour of the state capitol at the end of the day.
On Sunday, the actual day of the summit, the 100 youth experienced at least ten to 12 visits with different legislators to discuss possible solutions to issues in their communties' issues. There were many surprising things that happened during that day that could never have been orchestrated such as encouragement from lawmakers for young people to continue to push for what they want. A group of Pacific Islander youth asked for support of the Washington State Dream Act. The lawmakers were inspired by a personal story of a young, undocumented student who was a high school graduate and wanted to go onto college to be a teacher, but could not access funding.
The entire legislative summit was an amazing experience for these young people! They would probably never had this first hand opportunity to experience civic engagement. The amount of preparation and collaboration that went into the event by World Vision staff, partner organizations, and participating youth was so effective. The enthusiasm and appreciation of the participating youth was so encouraging to staff and partners alike!
Thank you for your support of the World Vision U.S. Programs' Youth Empowerment Program! Your financial support helps to fund World Vision staff to work with local partner organizations such as schools, churches, and community organizations that serve vulnerable youth. Our work to empower at-risk teens, ages 14-18, to discover their own voice to lead change in their own communities is vital. Your support of our work is so appreciated!!
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