Every Thursday afternoon you can find a group of youth flooding into Catholic Family Services’ main office. These youth come from across the region and bring diverse histories, situations, and attitudes to the table. Most are current or former Ark Services for Youth clients, youth who have dealt intimately with homelessness, poverty, family crisis, and other issues. Some simply want to be involved in their communities in meaningful ways.
The reason they all come together? To participate in our Youth Advisory Board!
Meetings typically begin with a social time while the teens gnosh on food and reflect on their week. It quickly becomes much more, however, as his group of creative and innovative youth works together to learn about their communities, develop plans to reach youth in crisis, and reach out to others in need. The group also provides invaluable input to our Ark Services for Youth Programs and helps us stay grounded and focused on youth trends and needs.
During the first few months of meeting, the group developed a specific set of goals for their time together — and these goals aim high to produce positive results:
- Create action and change
- Feel a sense of empowerment
- Celebrate achievements
- Share ideas
- Gain a community of support
So what has the Youth Advisory Board done to work on these goals?
Just since October they have participated in Kalamazoo’s Safe Halloween event, the Christian Life Center’s Halloween Carnival, Kalamazoo’s Holiday Parade, a Holiday Food Drive, the MLK Day of Caring event hosted by the Deacon’s Conference, and HRI’s Walk for the Homeless. In addition, the group has already created a plan to spur economic development over the summer by partnering with a local coffee house. They will be hosting Poetry Slams there, reaching out to youth in crisis in the process. Together with staff, they wrote a grant to fund the project (they will know more about the success of this grant application in late April).
We are so proud of the youth in our Youth Advisory Board.
These youth have shown amazing commitment and dedication and built a real sense of community over the past five months of service. We look forward to providing updates on their progress in the upcoming weeks and months and celebrate their success! Not only are they helping their community and Catholic Family Services, but they are learning amazing leadership skills and growing as individuals in the process! Truly these youth ARE making a difference.
Won’t you join them?
If you’d like to be involved in the work of Catholic Family Services, the Youth Advisory Board, or The Ark Services for Youth, call Jeannine Boehm at 269-381-1234.