In all of the years that I have been committed to "being of service" to the community, I have had the utmost honor and pleasure of meeting amazing people. Each of them has left an indelible impression on my heart and validated the reasons that I stay in the field of non-profit. This year is no exception and I was recently reminded that the work of the SCV Youth Project is not only important but an absolute necessity.
As Executive Director, my time is typically spent doing everything but experiencing the programs; I am often sitting at the desk responding to emails, doing paperwork, looking for money, balancing the books, writing an article, planning an event, fixing a computer, emptying the trash, and doing everything I can to keep the Youth Project doors open year after year ... so when the call came in that a student was in crisis, I couldn't leave the office fast enough. I finally was able to be part of the "mission" - giving teens the tools they need to live successful and fulfilling lives.
I walked into the counseling office at a local high school, where I met a young woman who forced a slight smile onto her face to convince me she was fine, as she held back her tears. After a few minutes she bravely shared that she had been molested by her uncle eight years prior, but that she was also sexually assaulted by her mother's boyfriend a few days prior to our meeting. I took several deep breaths as this beautiful young woman described the details of this tragic situation. As I listened, my heart broke for this young teen whose innocence was taken from her time and time again, her trust shattered and her confidence fragile at best. But as she spoke, I was struck by her willingness to reach out, despite feeling like nobody cared about her. I wanted to take her home and spend every hour I had convincing her of her value, her beauty, her strength and mostly her courage ... but for the next three hours, we just talked, cried, laughed and created a path to recovery.
Within a day of our meeting, she reached out to others in her family, whom she was convinced wanted nothing to do with her and asked them for help...she had her first job interview and secured her first job .... two days later, she asserted herself in ways that she had never done before with her mother and biological father and received positive reactions ... she is boldly going where she never thought she could. Even as I write this, I am welling up because this story is just ONE of a hundred that we hear every year at the Youth Project; and I am just so honored to be one small spoke in the wheel for these teenagers who continually amaze me. Not every story is as severe as hers, a lot of our kids just need someone to talk to about "life" stuff (family, relationships, school, goals); and even though they all have a different situation, they all share the same desire of wanting support, love and acceptance. Their willingness to better themselves at such a young age is awe inspiring.
The teenagers that the Youth Project is fortunate enough to work with are incredible kids that need a shoulder to lean on, a hand to help them up when they fall and an ear to listen to their fears and hopes, successes and failures ... they are all searching for, and finding unconditional support within the walls of the Youth Project. I could not be more proud of the work that our eleven year old agency has been able to accomplish ... and even though I am back at the computer again, I am encouraged, motivated and deeply moved - my heart is full.
The Youth Project is FREE to any teen (12 - 18 y/o), living in Santa Clarita, but we can only do this with your support. Please keep us in mind, as you make your end of year contributions. We would love to close our doors because there is no longer a need for our service, but until that is a reality, we need your help. I am personally inviting you to join our effort and be part of the path to recovery, to help carry on our mission by becoming a spoke in our constantly-turning wheel - you won't regret it.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Youth Project,
Kim Goldman, Executive Director