New “Ground Zero” Program Reaches Further for At-Risk Youth

Despite our engagement of many at risk youth in our existing programs, we have been frustrated by a pattern of other youth in our community who struggle to stay enrolled in school and youth development programs. These youth very quickly become involved in risky behaviors such as drug use, gambling, crime, school drop out, teen pregnancy and almost all of them ultimately end up in the juvenile justice system.Violence Prevention Workshop
In 2016 we decided to launch a new experiment to engage these marginal youth who were not otherwise being engaged. With the support of a generous sponsor and Macio Dickerson, a youth worker passionate saving Bayview’s most at-risk youth, we launched a pilot program called “Ground Zero.” Our aim was to get these youth engaged at the most basic levels, build meaningful and trusting relationships, and build from there to achieve meaningful change in their lives.
We started by meeting youth in the streets and on the stoops where they would spend their afternoons and evenings instead of being at home or otherwise participating in positive and healthy programs and activities. Through consistently showing up with care and encouragement, we have been able to cultivate meaningful connections based upon trust and a shared goal of self improvement. The Ground Zero pilot program now has over 20 youth enrolled and meets every Thursday night at the Oakdale Community Center.  Participants practice mindfulness meditation, plan their career and personal life goals, and engage in a curriculum focused upon personal development that has them exploring their individual issues of trauma, trust, and self-love.  Many of the participating youth have also been referred into other social service programs which offer them additional support with re-enrolling in school and seeking out and preparing for meaningful employment opportunities.

This Summer we will be taking the Ground Zero youth on special camping retreats, a sea kayaking overnight, and to local businesses. We are looking forward to the continued growth of this new program and the personal growth of these youth who were previously beyond our reach as youth programmers.