The 2014-2015 year brought exciting changes to the New View committee of the NYJL. The committee’s relationship with the community partners, Good Shepherd Services and Mentoring USA, was furthered through the expansion of our mentoring program to a second location where committee volunteers worked closely with adolescent girls currently residing in Non-Secure Detention (NSD) and Non-Secure Placement (NSP). Mentors work to create a supportive environment where NYJL committee volunteers serve as positive role models. The committee is also pleased to announce that, through the work with Good Shepherd Services, most especially young women ages 14-18, they have identified and are working to address literacy and help young adults in foster care achieve at-level reading by providing residents with vital resources through the establishment of lending libraries at three locations in New York City.
In just two years New View has grown leaps and bounds, yet the committee’s focus remains working closely with adolescents and young adults in the development and refinement of a range of valuable skills—from self-confidence and teamwork, to life skills and gratitude. Through our group mentoring programs in Union Square (East Side) and Chelsea Foyer (West Side), the NYJL serves distinct communities within the New York City foster care system. West Side volunteers meet at a co-ed apartment-style residence for young adults, ages 18-24 who are preparing to exit the foster care system. Volunteers on the East Side will continue their work with young women currently living in Good Shepherd Services residences and who have been placed in their care by the Family Court and Administration for Children’s Services.
New View committee volunteers meet with mentees bi-weekly on Tuesday evenings. The 60-minute mentoring sessions use a positive approach to harness the individual strength of participants while fostering creativity, responsibility and self-esteem. Icebreakers and activities provide for a more open dialogue between mentors and mentees allowing for deeper, hands-on engagement through such fun projects as dreamcatchers, friendship bracelets, cookie decorating and gingerbread house making. Working alongside their mentors often leads program participants to open up in conversations with committee volunteers. In addition to the hands-on activities, committee volunteers also provide dinner for the program participants which fosters a sense of community. On the East Side, the evening session begins with 30 minutes for dinner and then leads into the activity, while on the West Side dinner is served afterward.
Dinner is just one way New View committee volunteers work to develop a stable, structured environment for the sessions. On the East Side, providing a take-away gift from the evening extends the connection and offers the young women who often arrive with little to no personal belongings some items that they can call their own. In a session entitled “Paying it Forward” mentees created hand-made necklaces or jewelry items that they then gave as gifts—often to a family member—as a small token of their appreciation.
While it’s difficult to select just a few highlights of the New View programs over this past year, one particular experience on the West Side stands apart. As volunteers worked to prepare residents for life after Chelsea Foyer, the focus has been “Dream Big!” with sessions centered on resume writing, interview skills, transitioning from intern to employee and finance 101, it was the evening on gratitude that really developed a spark among the mentees. Committee volunteers shared their approach to communicating gratitude and thankfulness in the workplace as well as in personal and family relationships. At the end of the night each mentee received two boxes of thank you notes to take with them and use as follow up to job interviews, at the end of an internship, to a friend who passed along a resume, etc. Yet, in the final session one young man, who really blossomed over the course of the program, gave personal thank you notes to each mentor and thanked them for all that the New View committee did for him—a very thoughtful and touching gesture.