[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]For some students, the start of a new school year is a time of hope. For others, it’s a time of dread. After summer, school brings the anxiety of grades, sports, getting chosen for extracurriculars and navigating the school social hierarchy.  Students face a battery of rules and expectations – “Sit down, shut up, sit still, move over…”

Our goal with out-of-school programming at Alternatives is to create a safe space where youth are encouraged: “Dance, jump around, express yourself!” This is the space to explore, to imagine. Our role is to advocate, support, nurture, and encourage youth as they find different outlets for expression. We offer a reprieve from a world of externally-imposed expectations. Socializing at Alternatives is different from school. There isn’t the same social structure, and youth are mixed together with students from different grades, schools, communities and interests.

As Program Director, one of my goals for this year’s programming is to help our youth participants see themselves as creators of their space, not simply passive participants. I’ve noticed it’s been a hard summer for our youth. Many are used to being beaten down by adults in their lives, where every interaction with an adult is a confrontation. Many don’t have opportunities to be seen, cared for, listened to and understood. When youth are coming from this place of discouragement and disenfranchisement, they don’t feel like they have ownership of anything—and all adults are viewed with suspicion. But here at Alternatives, each program starts off by the youth participants setting and agreeing to their own norms and expectations. Each session starts with a check-in to hear how everyone is doing. Each staff member is trained in being an ally for youth and is invested in the experiences of their youth participants.

My plan for meeting our youth where they’re at is to use an increased focus this year on the impact of trauma on youth. My team will be going through additional trainings on trauma-informed services, and as an agency we’re doing strategic thinking about how we come together for our youth. We also will be partnering with parents in this process, engaging them to help us be more effective in creating safe spaces for their children.

Today, here’s to all students finding their place in this new school year—and, equally important, here’s to finding their voice.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Tuesday, October 10, 2023 4:30 PM

Tuesday, October 24, 2023 4:30 PM

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