Monday, January 23, 2012
Teen Center Youth Worker
This is in the words of a young girl who is a Youth Worker from our Culmore Teen Center.
“I am 14 years old. I attend JEB Stuart High School and I am in the 9th grade. I come from a family of 6 kids, being the second oldest having a brother who's a year older. When I was 7 I lived in Culmore with four of my siblings and my parents. Most days after school all of us would go to the Alternative House Culmore Safe Youth Project (CSYP) after school program, that was just a few minutes from where I lived. It gave us somewhere to go while my parents worked. It was a difficult time both of my parents worked two jobs: one during the day and one during night. When I was in the 4th grade my mom was pregnant with twin baby boys which made it hard for her to work her second job which was delivering newspapers during night. I may have not been the oldest but I was that figure in my family so in the 4th grade my schedule was to go to sleep at 10:00 pm, wake up at 2:00 am deliver newspapers with my parents, come home around 7:00am and then go to school it was a lot of pressure, but the CSYP helped me get away from it all, and to be cared for. When my mom finally gave birth to the twins I was in 5th grade. She left the newborn twins at home for me and my older brother to care for at night while she was working. A few years later we moved out of our one bedroom apartment in Culmore to somewhere a little farther away. About 2 years ago, Alternative House was doing street outreach and they connected with me again. They offered and told me all about the programs available and I joined the Girl World group. I am glad that I was able to connect again, and receive all the support and help that I get from the counselors. A few months ago, I was hired as a youth worker at the Culmore Teen Center. This has given me so much pride and of course it is a great help. It is only for 6 months, but I am learning so much from it! I have many friends that struggle with even worse situations than me; that do not have a safe place to live in and that simply need assistance, and I am so glad that I am able to refer them to the Alternative House. My friends and I still to this day come to all the programs and everything they offer really does mean a lot to us kids, we might not have been born at the top but Alternative House really does help work you there. Thank you for your time.”
For 16 years our Community Based Youth Services have served high-risk and culturally diverse youth in their neighborhoods. Neighborhood-based counselors worked with more than 1,000 young people last year. Our mobile outreach van averages 300 contacts with youth each month providing counseling, referrals and survival supplies in an effort to keep youth in school and away from gang activity.
The Culmore Teen Center served more than 250 youth this past year. The drop-in center provides a safe place away from gang recruitment in one of the most heavily gang-infested areas in Fairfax. Counselors at the center along with community volunteers, provide homework help, tutoring, and recreation and field trips, counseling and community service projects. The center also provides meals for those who need it.
The Safe Youth Project, is an after-school program for 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Our first Safe Youth Project in Culmore was so successful that we were able to open a second program in Annandale. The program provides homework help, tutoring, community service opportunities, computer skills, and recreational opportunities. It was opened after police asked Alternative House if we could work with younger youth. Local gangs have started recruiting children as young as 10. Waiting to provide prevention services beginning in middle school could be too late. The Safe Youth Project has exceeded its enrollment projection of 30 youth at each location and provides neighborhood-based services four days a week.