By Ernie McCray
I just finished watching a Turner Classic Movie, “Scandal at Scourie,” that featured two of my favorite all-time movie actors, Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson, playing a couple who adopted a foster child. In one scene a bully, a boy, says to the adopted child, a girl, “You have no mother and you have no father. You’re nothing but a…” The last words are lost in a flurry of commotion.
As I watched I thought how timely the movie was for me since my plan for the day was to write about a program my son and others are creating to help empower low-income young adults and former foster youth, ages 18-24, to become more self sufficient. As it is, they spend their young lives pretty much seeing the world as though they’re observing it through a frosted window. All is blurry. Focusing on anything that might be of value to them in the future is often nearly impossible.
I so appreciate what my son and his friends are doing to help youth who have very few clues as to how to pursue a life. These young people need all the help they can because society, for all the good that it does, just doesn’t do enough. Much like the intimidating boy in the movie, we too often bully young people and we do so in the form of simply not hearing their cries as they try to make sense of the world. Or we yell at busloads of them who seek asylum from conditions in their home countries or we ignore bombs being dropped on them due to hostilities between occupiers and the occupied, arguing, instead, who is right or wrong when we’re all at fault when we allow children to be killed.
My son and his fellow social workers spent countless hours brainstorming and planning at local coffee houses after work and conducting numerous interviews with young people, trying to zero in on just what type of program they would like to take part in to help them become successful adults.
They’ve pursued this mission because so many foster youth, who’ve aged out of the social welfare system, are not at all, as I’ve alluded to, well equipped to be self-sufficient. Statistics show that they are at a higher risk of being homeless, unemployed, developing drug addictions, and spending time in jail and/or prison. Aged out foster youth also have a significantly lower rate of pursuing higher education. Those who do have a 1% college graduation rate. That should not be acceptable to us as a nation.
The program they’re working on is called Get Empowered Today (GET). It kicks off in January of 2015 and it’s designed to provide hands-on experiences as it relates to financial education, higher education, employment, relationship building and healthy living. For example, in one aspect of the program, a bank manager will teach these young people about the world of finance in a classroom setting and then help them sign up for and manage checking and savings accounts.
Additionally GET aims to teach them: how to dream and build roadmaps from their current situations to achieve their dreams; how to identify positive mentors; how to identify resources in their community; and how to build reciprocal networks with what is around them. Every component of the program is built on the foundation of teaching and demonstrating the power of reciprocity, the notion of people exchanging services, talents, time, etc. with others for the mutual benefit of all concerned. Sounds so good to me.
My son and his associates have been asked by YouthBuild Charter School to pilot the program with their adult students and they have partnered with San Diego State University’s Consensus Organizing Center as their acting non-profit agency and have other community partners committed to participate.
Their big hurdle, of course, is raising funds. Their immediate goal is $30,000. Donations can be made through the San Diego State University’s Consensus Organizing Center website.
To designate a contribution to GET, type “GET” in the box following “please specify your donation designation below” (which is just above “Gift Frequency.” One can make a one-time donation, schedule payments, or set-up payments. A tax-deductible letter will be mailed to the donor’s home for tax purposes.)
This is a great opportunity for us, as individuals, and/or with our various organizations, to wipe the frost from the windows through which these young people see their world so they can envision and pursue lives as educated, employable, financially savvy human beings who are able to build and maintain positive social and professional relationships, and who are fully equipped to live healthy and active lifestyles.
We could do nothing more noble than helping young people realize a nice clean window to the world.
Photo courtesy of flickr