Volunteer Education on Overcoming Challenges Working With At-Risk Youth


Left to right: Volunteers, Hope Palladino of GOAL and Hannah Beswick of Reading Rangers with Lew Zuchman of SCAN – NY.

Volunteering as a New York Junior League mentor is a wonderful way to provide both life guidance and career exploration for youth that may be at risk of social, economic, or academic failure. Programs like SCAN and GOAL provide an opportunity for our youth to empower themselves by building confidence through various development programs. Working with at-risk youth can present its own set of challenges. Many of these youths have experienced a life filled with violence and homelessness, potentially making it difficult for them to trust new people. While the relationship building may be a slow process, the rewards are paramount.

During the recent Volunteer Education and Training (VET) event, Overcoming Challenges Working with At-Risk Youth, NYJL volunteers had the opportunity to meet and speak with Lew Zuchman, Executive Director of Supportive Children’s Advocacy Network (SCAN) New York for 31 Years, Hannah Beswick of Reading Rangers, and Hope Palladino, Treasurer of Girls Opportunity Advancement & Leadership (GOAL).


Left to right: Volunteer, Hope Palladino, Lew Zuchman (SCAN – NY) and Volunteer, Hannah Beswick

Over the course of the evening, attendees learned about SCAN’s history and the work they do in the community. Founded in 1977, SCAN is a non-profit youth and family service organization that provides a variety of integrated supports to the highest risk children and families of East Harlem and the South Bronx. SCAN currently serves over 7,000 children and teens, as well as, 1,000 adults and families each year at 23 program sites. It is currently the largest youth provider in East Harlem and South Bronx

In addition, Hope Palladino discussed GOAL work alongside Union Settlement Association to empower at-risk young women to explore higher education opportunities, including college and vocational education to delay pregnancy.

Panelists provided the below tips and techniques to help develop your capacity for skillful intervention, building a rapport, and understanding the complex difficulties children and families experience:

Be patient – Many of these at-risk youths have been hurt by people leaving time and time again. They may be suspicious of your motives as a volunteer. Be patient and allow the trust to develop naturally.

Go the extra mile – Arrive 15 minutes early or stay after an additional 15 minutes to spark a one on one conversation with a child that may not have felt comfortable speaking in the group atmosphere.

Be consistent – Mentoring and volunteering is a commitment. The best way to establish trust is to enable a sense of dependability. The encouragement and motivation you give will be better received by the youths if they feel as if they can depend on you to be present on a consistent basis.

Interested in improving communities through the effective action and learning more about volunteering with the New York Junior League? Join us for an upcoming new volunteer orientation!

LIFT Committee Focuses on Mental Empowerment

Self-reflection – contemplating past successes and creating new goals for the year ahead are often triggered at the beginning of the year. While many people begin the New Year ready to confidently conquer the year ahead, aspirations often wane as the stress of everyday life take hold. The NYJL focuses on self reflection and goal setting throughout the year within the communities we work in and the committees.

With a new season of mentoring for LIFT volunteers (Lead, Inspire, Focus, Thrive.) at Leake & Watts, volunteers and mentees gathered for one of 2018’s first workshops and focused on mental empowerment through mantra-making and meditating in order to accomplish the mentees’ 2018 goals.

As an icebreaker, everyone sat in a circle and stated something they were either happy about or wanted to focus on in 2018. Mentees and volunteers alike expressed joy and happiness about their time together. The mentees have set their sights high for 2018 – goals include attending college, excelling in school, and being present and grateful in day-to-day life.  

Next, everyone was given a bottle of essential oils to dab on their wrist as the group begun a short and relaxing meditation, which built upon skills from an earlier workshop on mindfulness last year. Looking around the room, it was clear the mentees took meditation seriously, as they sat with their eyes closed, breathing in time with one another.

After completing the meditation, everyone learned about mantras and empowered women who have used mantras in their lives. The group created a personal mantra to use in day-to-day life when a boost of confidence is needed or a mind calmed during a stressful situation. At the end of the workshop, everyone placed their mantra on a table to see the words of empowerment and strength among the group.

Mentees and volunteers alike left the workshop with a new mantra to hold close and new skills to accomplish all goals in the year ahead.

LIFT’s relationship with Leake & Watts is an example of one of the many community organizations the NYJL partners with and who shares our passion for improving the New York City community. Learn more about their partnerships and the work of our community committees here.

Celebrate Earth Day with PIP!

Earth Day, celebrated every April 22 in the United States, is a 48 year old holiday that was created to increase public awareness of environmental problems throughout the world. It is often celebrated through educational programs and volunteer work to focused on improving the environment.  

The New York Junior League founded Playground Improvement Project (PIP) over 25 years ago. PIP volunteers design, plan, fund, and complete one playground renovation each spring. Renovations include repainting playground equipment, benches and lamp posts to repairing batting cage areas and cleaning up garden beds and shrubs throughout the park.

Starting April 14th through May 12th, we invite you to join the NYJL to improve the Corlears Hook Park, next to the beautiful East River along the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Drive in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. To learn more about this year’s PIP project and see a full list of volunteer days.  

If you are unable to attend and are interested in contributing to this cause, you can make a donation today!

Bring the Little Ones when Jr. Junior League Links Up with Social Promise

On April 28, the Jr. Junior League committee will partner with Social Promise to teach principles of philanthropy to preschool and elementary aged New York City children.  If you have school aged children, we welcome you to attend to help celebrate family volunteerism!

Social Promise, a NYC-based nonprofit, supports critical health and educational resources serving the impoverished Ugandan communities.  Social Promise believes children have the natural ability to empathize and have the desire to help others at a young age. The goal of the Jr. Junior League course, and partnership with Social Promise, is to seek and foster a lifelong commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy.  

Session #1 (Ages 3-6; 10-11:15am) Students will learn what philanthropy is and how they can give their time, talents and treasures, and how they can encourage family and friends to volunteer. Click here to register!

Session #2 (Ages 7-12; 11:30am-1pm) Students will learn what philanthropy is, how they can make meaningful choices to last a lifetime, and how they can encourage family and friends to volunteer.  Click here to register!

We look forward to working with Social Promise on April 28 to share the benefits of volunteering with the youth in NYC!

NYJL Celebrates National Mentoring Month

Here at the New York Junior League, 2018 starts strong with our core mission to improve the well being of children and families in New York City. Our mission would not be possible without the care and persistence of our volunteers. January’s National Mentor Month highlights the importance of mentorship in our communities.

In honor of National Mentoring Month, it’s time to celebrate the special mentors who have trained children, teens, and adults through our 11 mentoring programs.

A way to show your  role models appreciation for their support and guidance is by making a donation in their honor to the New York Junior League Annual Fund. Your chosen mentor will receive a card thanking them for the positive life changes that were made possible with their mentorship. To make a brighter and safer future for those in need is the foundation of our solid mentorship programs.

Want make an impact and support mentor programs? Send your donation of appreciation to your mentor!