Youth At Risk Continues To Change Lives
We’ve documented the incredible work Youth At Risk (YAR) does for teenagers in New York City and across the country (the organization is committed to transforming the lives of disadvantaged youth who exhibit maladaptive behaviors such as truancy, violence, gang membership, physical and verbal violence and at-risk sexual activity) and as you can see from Nicole, Raynah, Moslean, Destiny and Tanisha‘s faces (left to right, above), smiles are in order when the group works together to achieve life-changing breakthroughs.
The girls and their fellow mentees took part in various activities during the program’s overnight intensive this past weekend, including a ceremony involving them making plaster of Paris face masks (hence the shower caps) that they covered with magazine pictures representing various personalities inside them (including lessons on when and where to use their personalities to their advantage, not detriment). The year-long mentor program is drawing to a close for this particular cohort, and the growth these young women have experienced in all areas of their lives is truly remarkable.
Read Raynah’s touching account of how the themes of YAR’s Woman 2 Woman program have changed her life:
Being in the Youth At Risk (YAR) program teaches young people the value of their lives. Each work session shows us we are who we are today because of our past. We learn that when you hold on to your past, you can never move forward to a bright future.
In the program we learn there are two sides to ourselves: the “AM” and “FM.” “AM” thoughts hold you back from moving forward in life and taking on various opportunities. Also known as your “strong wing,” AM thoughts are bad habits we express very well. The strong wing holds you back from opportunities and new experiences. “FM” thoughts are known best for being positive and represent an optimistic mentality. The FM mind set is shown by a person’s progression and wanting to do better for themselves and others around them. This is known as the “weak wing” as it shows what you do well but it needs work to make it strong.
In and outside of the program I’ve learned to use AM/FM thoughts. Before the program I let the “AM” take control of my life. Now I’m 16, I see a complete change in myself from years before, when I was the first person on the scene getting into trouble (mainly physical altercations) and not caring about the consequences. One of the saddest days of my life was when, on a night out with friends going to a party, we ended up getting jumped and one of my friends lost their life because of a bad and careless decision. This later affected me to the point of seeking out revenge, which became my main goal for a long while. It also changed how much I could trust people, even family and friends, and it made me look at the world in a different way.
Looking back on those days and reflecting on myself as the person I was into the person I am today, I use AM/FM thoughts to influence my decisions and actions, work hard on changing myself and am now fixing my trust issues along the way. Today I see myself as a more forgiving person who’s matured tremendously, is staying focused in school and isn’t as caught up in street activity. As we say in the YAR program, “In life you cannot try—it is either you do or you don’t.” I use this quote a lot to help people around me see the greatest thing to do in life is put your best foot forward and take chances. I changed because I learned I was preventing myself from being the best Raynah I can be.
I’m extremely proud to be a mentor with Youth At Risk and encourage anyone interested in working with the organization to visit their official site.