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Program Helps Youth Succeed

Location:
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Details:

JÓVENES COMO RECURSO - First in a Series

Students Charly, María, Anahí and Alonso were on the verge of being expulsed from high school. The 15 and 16 year-olds had disciplinary and truancy problems. They also happen to live in Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. A city that has lately been in the news for the wrong reasons: cartel violence.

Maria Eugenia Parra. Youth Outreach and Education Coordinator for SADEC-FEMAP in Cd. Juarez and administrators at the teens’ school decided to integrate them into the Philanthropy in Youth Program along with 24 other high school students.

The Philanthropy in Youth Program works with adolescents 12 to 18 years-of-age in Cd. Juarez. The goal is to teach them how to become volunteers and philanthropists, regardless of their socio-economic status in their own communities. One of the many and most important outcomes is developing positive change in the youth. The program is implemented in high schools by FEMAP-SADEC in coordination with the school.

“The goal of this program is to provide the youth practical tools and knowledge so they may develop projects that benefit their communities. The youth develop and implement their projects,” explains Parra. “The school took the decision to utilize this strategy to introduce students with serious conduct problems and whose possibility of staying in school hinged on better conduct and grades,” she adds.

The beginning was very difficult and the youth had a negative attitude. “We did not want to participate in the activities nor be part of the group,” recalls Charly. “But this started changing as the program progressed and we started recognizing our own worth and could visualize ourselves as a resource for the community,” he adds.

The program consists of 15 sessions in which the youth reflect about the changes that they are undergoing as adolescents, and in turn, learn to work as a team and find peaceful solutions to their differences. Their project was remodeling a shelter for homeless elderly and an orphanage. Not only did this experience give them the opportunity to develop the project and complete it, but it also instilled in them a sense of satisfaction. “We realized our community needs us and they benefit from what we can provide,” says Maria. “There is always someone that has more needs than you,” adds Alonso.

Charly, Maria Anahi and Alonso’s, grades increased and reports of bad conduct lowered. At the end of the school cycle, all the participants in the program were able to graduate from high school.

Since 2000, FEMAP-SADEC has worked to mobilize resources and expertise throughout Cd. Juarez to address the growing challenges facing young people and improve their conditions and prospects through programs such Horario Extendido (After-School Program), Jovenes Como Recurso (Philanthropy in Youth) and Jovenes, Cultura y Sexualidad (Two Should Know). FEMAP has equipped young people with the resources and opportunities to use their talents more productively through alliances of corporations, schools and foundations.

Despite considerable progress over the last decade many of the needs facing Cd. Juarez‘ young people are more urgent than ever. Nearly 40% of Cd. Juarez’ population is under the age of 19, with the vast majority growing up with limited access to health, education, good schools, employment opportunities, or, most importantly, hope. “As a community, we must continue to invest in long-term solutions to these urgent needs by strengthening and “scaling up” programs and approaches that have proven their effectiveness,” advices Parra.

Years ago, students dropped out because of external causes: the need to help at home, illness or pregnancy. Today, frustration, failure, and fear are more likely to be contributing factors. "I thought nobody was listening, and nobody really cared," says Anahí. “I was wrong.”