(Note that youth names have been changed.)
“When I first came to YC, I had very very low self esteem. I was rebellious. I also felt like I had no one. When I came here and started to see Jackie, I started to have someone to be there for me. I started to see myself in a different light, to be more positive. Over the last three years to be strong for myself, I have learned not to let words get to me and I learned that talking to someone really makes a difference…I feel like honestly, some kids don’t have someone to talk to and feel that if they tell someone they will be judged or not given positive advice. Here at YC they help you overcome challenges and improve as a person, and make you feel like someone cares and will be there for you.I see a lot of relationship abuse with my friends and classmates, and they could use more adults to listen to them and give them advice.” (written by a junior at Morton West High School, YC client for 3 years)
submitted by Jaclyn Wallen, MA, LPC, YC Youth & Family Intervention Counselor
When I first met “Lori” at Morton Freshman Center, she was failing every class and smoking marijuana on a regular basis. She had been referred to me by the school support staff because they could tell she was on a downward spiral, and things were moving pretty quickly in the wrong direction. When I met Lori, I was struck by how articulate she was and told her I saw a ton of potential for her success. Lori has a rough family history; most of her relatives are involved in gangs, use drugs and have not been able to provide the support and guidance that a 14-year old needs. She was exposed to things that no one should have to experience, including being physically abused by her father. But Lori was ready for change.
Lori actively participated in services. She was in two groups that I ran at the Freshman Center, as well as individual counseling services. Lori would come into my classroom to talk through things after a particularly rough weekend at home, or when she’d have tension with her peers. I also collaborated with the school psychologist, her teachers and DCFS to help make sure that Lori was safe and able to get the support she needed. The last week of the school year, Lori came to my room to let me know she had passed all of her classes, earning mostly with As and Bs. She was so excited.
Over the past few months I have notice Lori’s attitude is full of hope; she believes she can go to college, have a career and a good future. I always tell Lori that she’s “stuck with me,” that I am not going anywhere, and that I will be there to cheer her as she accomplishes major milestones, like high school graduation. For now, we will focus on helping her make good choices through the summer and prepare for going to Morton East.
Jaclyn Wallen, MA, LPC
YC Youth & Family Intervention Counselor
As a Youth Development Specialist, it is my job to mentor and tutor the students that are part of the after school program at Freedom Middle School. Students come in every day with homework that needs to be completed. Most of the students accomplish this task with no or minimal assistance. One student, “John”, came to me one day with math homework. As a mathematics major, I relish the opportunity to assist students’ learning with the art of mathematics. John posed questions to me regarding simple arithmetic. After ensuring that John completed the work required successfully, I delved a bit further and expanded his comprehension. After asking John to demonstrate verbally how he mentally solves multiplication problems, I simplified his understanding in a way that permanently taught him how to multiply two double-digit numbers in his head with just basic knowledge of multiplication tables. After only about ten minutes and several questions testing his new knowledge, John was able to crank out answers to multiplication problems faster than he could if he attempted to use a calculator. He was thoroughly impressed with himself and thanked me for the help. John is only one of many students that Youth Crossroads helps academically every day in the after school program.
Aaron Kral, YC Youth Development Specialist
As an intern in the After School Program I have the privilege of working with middle school students in the Berwyn Community. In my second semester here at YC I have also had the opportunity to watch students change over time. One particular student who catches my attention has been involved with the program since day one. At the beginning she was very shy and did not like to work in groups. It was also hard for her to have conversations with other students, and she mostly liked to be left alone. Over the past few months I have watched her grow and have seen how she is able to connect and talk with peers and staff members. During a self-expression group activity she told her peers and staff members about her goals of joining sport teams in high school and also mentioned how her grades have improved but need more improvement if she wants her to achieve her goals. She is just one example where it is evident to see how vital the After School program is to the community, school, and most importantly the students.
Janet Ocampo, YC Intern, After-School Program
Note to a Youth Leadership Staff Member:
“May God continue to give you the gift you have and the wonderful person you are especially to all the interns and kids you work with helping them day in and day out. No words can describe what your job entails working with so many young kids and helping them to choose a better path. From the bottom of my heart I wish you the best. You will always have a very special place in our family. “
Parent of YLP Intern
Forty middle school students (in the After-School Program) never make for a boring day. From snack and free time to life skills, something interesting always happens. As a second-semester intern at Youth Crossroads, I have an opportunity to interact with an array of personalities as a group and individually. However, seeing the youth interact with each other has been by far the most rewarding. I recall a particular interaction between a group of sixth grade students. The group began bullying one student, and in passing, an eighth grade student put a stop to it and continued on his way. This simple interaction meant a lot. Not only are some students speaking out against bullying, but the students are also bridging the gap between age and establishing friendships across grades.
Natalia Linares, YC After-School Program Intern
Approximately two years ago, 15 year old “Janice” walked into my office. I immediately knew this was going to be a tough case. She had been referred by her probation officer after being detained and given a probation term for her involvement in an armed robbery. At a young age, Janice had committed herself to the gang life, which had led to a significant amount of drug use and violence. She also had a history of abuse, neglect, and trauma. It seemed as though her family was constantly pulling her in the wrong direction, refusing to offer her positive guidance. To be honest, after completing her assessment, I did not know which issue to tackle first.
Janice’s relationship with drugs began when she was nine years old. In the last two years I have seen her make significant progress. Three months ago, after much needed positive encouragement from me and her probation officer, Janice checked herself into an in-patient rehab program. Several times she was tempted to give up, but she found the strength to continue with her recovery. During our most recent session, Janice proudly informed me that she has been drug free for 100 days. This is an immense accomplishment and I could not be more proud.
Additionally, over the last two years Janice has begun to make other serious transformations in her life; she is actively pursuing GED preparation classes and is working on building healthy relationships with her friends and family. I am so proud of the steps that Janice has been taking to turn her life around. I consider it a privilege to have been given the opportunity to be Janice’s counselor and walk with her as she continues her journey of transformation.
Jaclyn Wallen, MA, LPC
When asked on a recent YC Youth Leadership survey, “What did you learn about yourself?” youth responded:
• I learned that I sometimes need a mind filter
• That I have the potential to actually talk in front of people with no problems and that it is easy; I also learned I can be really confident of myself at times
• I can cooperate with people very well
• That I can work with people I never knew before and then make new friendships after getting to know everyone.
• I learned that if I try hard enough I can convince myself to trust others.
• That I am a leader and follower but I’ve committed to this program.
• That if I pay attention I can complete something I really want to do.
• That I am able to be a leader.
• That I can speak in front of a crowd; I have grown into knowing that someday I will be able to take my leadership skills and use them in life to succeed.
• I learned to be confident, think outside the box, don’t be afraid to say your own opinion, use your resources in a different perspective and that there is no I in team. I also learned that knowledge is key and attitude reflects leadership.
• Learned that I am not as shy (as I used to be).