Our daughter Lidia just completed her second summer with Youth Enrichment Services through the mayor’s Learn and Earn summer employment program. When she was initially assigned to YES last summer, she was 14, and entering the 9th grade. She had never had a job before, she had never ridden public transportation by herself, and she didn’t know anyone else in the program. I had the normal “mom” anxieties about her safety — East Liberty seemed like a long way for a kid to ride the bus alone from the North Side. She was always naturally more on the shy and anxious side, and I worried about how she might fare in an unfamiliar situation — Being a teenager is hard, and sometimes the influences in the world seem scary — would she make friends? would she feel isolated? would she have fun? would it be a positive experience?
But from the moment we met the staff and she went through training, my anxiety eased, and so did hers--everyone was so supportive, welcoming and nurturing to her. And when she attended the Leadership Development Camp, she came home more happy and relaxed than I had seen her in a long time--telling us all about the farm and the horses and the activities and how nice and friendly everyone was. Over the next weeks, I saw incredible growth in Lidia’s confidence level, in her independence, in her awareness of the city outside the neighborhood where she lived. Her interest in social justice and equity blossomed. She had experiences with YES that it would have been impossible to replicate if she had stayed on familiar ground. The camaraderie with her peers and the many amazing field trip experiences opened her eyes to new perspectives on the world. Her summer experience with YES ushered her into a very positive 9th grade year.
This summer, as she worked with her cohort at the day camp, I again saw tremendous growth in her maturity and integrity. She discovered an enjoyment in working hard helping others and cleaning in the cafeteria and took pride and accomplishment in a job well done. She LOVED working with the children in their art activities and came home happy each day. Her friendships and commitment to her core beliefs strengthened. She has had the amazing opportunity to deeply explore her interests in African American History, issues of cultural appropriation, equality, and justice, as well as how to work on a group research project, set goals and meet deadlines.
I know that Lidia would tell you how much she has enjoyed spending the past two summers with YES. Even more importantly, I can attest that she truly was ENRICHED by the opportunity. Thank you for providing this valuable community resource and your commitment to the positive development of our youth. They really are our future.
With warm regards,