The Chance to Thrive
By the time she was 15 Casey* had all but dropped out of school.
It wasn’t that she didn’t care. She did. A lot. So much so that the anxiety of achieving anything less than perfection was crippling. She’d go to classes for a couple of days and then retreat. Home wasn’t a relief, but unlike school, it wasn’t a place she could escape. She lived with her dad, who couldn’t work due to a disability. So, from a young age, Casey took on the responsibilities of caring for him and their home. She cooked, cleaned and kept things in order. All the while trying to keep up with school. It was a lot to take on for a kid.
The pressure Casey put on herself to manage a home and make honour roll was too much for the grade 10 student. She wanted straight A’s and a college acceptance letter but she needed to eat, she needed a safe place to sleep.
The harsh realities of poverty had cut Casey’s childhood and replaced it with a heavy burden of responsibility. Yet she blamed herself for what she saw as personal inadequacies.
Teen years can be tough. The transition into adulthood is filled with countless changes and challenges as youth try to figure out who they are and their place in the world.
For youth like Casey who are growing up in poverty – a circumstance beyond their control – this is especially challenging as the world around them is often unkindly shaped by persistent crisis, stress, dysfunction and hardship. Their world forces them to confront challenges and take on responsibilities beyond their years.
In this way, poverty can rob children of their self-confidence, hope, resilience – and ultimately – their futures.
Unaware of the simple advantages (a quiet space to do homework, opportunity to rest and play, age-appropriate responsibilities) that help others succeed, youth can come to blame themselves for what they see as personal failings.
Without effective adult support, teens can begin to feel helpless, see their situation as hopeless and start to give up.
Interventions of Hope
Fortunately, extensive research has shown that stable and supportive adults can help keep at-risk youth on the right track. A dependable positive role model is essential for providing the mentorship, advocacy and stability youth need to manage and overcome life’s challenges. However, the stresses poverty places on a family often deny teens the guidance and support they need to safely and successfully explore the joys, choices, challenges, responsibilities and consequences of their expanding independence.
At CityKidz, we want all children to reach their full potential – whatever that looks like. We know this takes time and investment. And so, our commitment to inspiring hope and providing uplifting programs for our kids doesn’t end when they turn 12. We want to continue walking alongside our children as they journey through some of the most difficult and exciting years of their lives. We want to be a supportive force that empowers youth to break its vicious cycle. That’s why CityKidz has two inspiring and supportive youth mentorship programs: CityYouth and Roadmaps to Dreams.
At CityYouth and Roadmaps, mentors connect with teens in small groups to work through the challenges and celebrate the achievements in their adolescent lives. Mentors generously share their wisdom, love and grace in ways that help teens develop positive attitudes and behaviours that empower them to make positive life choices. Together, youth explore topics like identity, leadership, health, lifestyle, wisdom, faith and relationships.
Through guided discussion, teamwork and hands-on experiences, CityKidz youth programs help teens develop self-confidence, self-awareness, resilience as well as practical leadership and communication skills.
Opportunities and Possibilities
Most importantly, mentors offer praise and encouragement, comfort and counsel, insight and patience. They see the incredible talent and potential in youth and help them to bring it out.
At CityYouth, Casey connected with thoughtful mentors who gave her strategies to manage her anxiety and supportive peers who showed her she was not alone and helped her build self-confidence. She learned to understand, accept and trust herself. She realized it was not too late to make her dreams a reality.
“Staying at home was like a fantasy,” explains Casey, “CityYouth distracted me from being home and in my thoughts of anxiety and depression. Mentors helped open my eyes to the real world and helped me believe I could have a future.”
Casey is now 18 and set to graduate from high school in June. She plans to work and save up money so she attend culinary school in 2020 – a dream of hers since she was seven.
For all the challenges that come with adolescence, there are also many hopeful opportunities! Every youth holds the potential to right the wrongs of poverty. Their path is not set, their future is not yet known. They have their whole lives ahead of them. It’s our calling to make sure they have the guidance, support, skills and opportunities they need to define their own future and not let the harsh demands of poverty do it for them.
How You Can Help
Casey is now flourishing. But there are still so many youth who need a mentor’s help to forge a path through their adversities and out of poverty. Their opportunity starts with you.
CityYouth and Roadmaps to Dreams give vulnerable youth a real chance to strive, thrive and reach their full potential.
Without your help, we can’t run our youth programs. And without our programs, hundreds of at-risk youth will never develop the strength they need to handle life’s hurdles and achieve their dreams. They’ll never transform their wounds into wisdom or hurt into hope.
Your gift will help cover the expenses – such as mentor training as well as food and transportation for our youth – necessary to deliver our youth programs and help youth like Casey develop the resilience and skills they need to overcome their difficult realities and pursue a better future.
But more importantly, your gift will give a teen back the hope that poverty crushes, the opportunities it thwarts and the future it steals.