While all children are born with the “promise of success” a defined gap exists between children who are born with ready access to the social and economic tools essential to future success and children who are not. Many proposed solutions build a bridge to connect those in need with the resources required to succeed. That approach is founded on the belief that those who struggle are deficient in some way and, as such, creates an unequal power structure between the person seeking help and the entity providing the assistance.
Choosing to approach the problem from a different angle, CLUES utilizes a strength-based approach grounded in the belief that all persons are born with promise and possess strengths and skills that make them uniquely prepared for success. Rather than creating a temporary bridge that can break when support is unavailable, our programs and services support each individual as they build on their unique assets to construct their own strong foundation—a foundation that fills in the gap created by structural and environmental factors outside of their control and ultimately becomes their own permanent, supportive launching pad for future success.
To create this foundation CLUES offers a diverse portfolio of programs and services that address a wide array of barriers resulting in a truly holistic delivery of youth development services for both our students and their families. The youth programs offered through the Latino Youth Exploration Center initiative at CLUES, address the need for linguistically and culturally relevant college access education, work readiness training, and social/emotional enrichment, through integrated curricula focused on academic success, soft skills (e.g., leadership, team building), relationship building, and civic engagement. A key component of all CLUES’ youth programs is the focus on creating networks of support and building social capital. Youth are given the opportunity to engage in a variety of opportunities throughout the year that help them to learn more about the world, become civically engaged in their communities and neighborhoods, build their self confidence, use their voices to impact change, share their stories and learn about others, as well as continue to build their own skills and experience to promote their future success.
Jesus has been in the Youth in Action program at CLUES since he was in 9th grade. Throughout his time in the program Jesus has grown into a wonderful, caring, strong leader in and outside the group. Within the group he is part of our youth advisory board, helps lead during our institutes, and participates in our service projects. Outside of the group he is an honor student, plays sports, and supports his family. Jesus has been able to learn a lot about himself, and his leaderships skills within the group and has grown in confidence. He was paired with a wonderful mentor who has supported him over the past 3 years and always encourages Jesus to be his best and try new things. This year Jesus applied to be part of the National Honors Society and was accepted! The day of the National Honor Society ceremony Jesus had his family, mentor, and CLUES YA! staff there to support and congratulate all his hard work.
One of the most amazing parts of our job as youth workers at CLUES is witnessing students grow in self confidence. Tania has been a part of CLUES programming since she was in eighth grade. In her first few years Tania was mostly comfortable following other people’s lead, and sitting back while others shared their input and led activities.
As Tania spent time with other young women in the programs and formed strong bonds with her mentor and program staff she became more comfortable letting her guard down, and sharing her thoughts and opinions with those around her.
Tania has especially come out of her shell in the Entre Mujeres program. The Entre Mujeres workshops center around bringing young women together to learn from each other, and those around them, all while learning how to empower women.
In her participation in this program, Tania demonstrates the true power of women coming together. Through each workshop she attended, she got to know her peers a bit more; and not just in an academic or structured space; she got to know them as people, as young women, as Latinas. She recognized the power in connecting with someone who shares the same traits and values with yourself and building upon those similarities. Through hands on activities, and opportunities to share opinions and thoughts, Tania has grown into her voice. She is now comfortable speaking up, because she feels a connection to those around her. She knows that the other people in the room are genuinely interested in hearing what she has to say.
As the leader of the Entre Mujeres program, I am so proud of Tania’s growth. She knows what it means to be valued and appreciated and makes sure to pay it forward. She is seen and recognized by the older students as someone to invest in and passes along that mentorship to the underclassmen. It only takes a quick glance and shared eye contact, for Tania to step up and offer her thoughts and share her experiences. Two years ago, she would’ve shied away at the opportunity, viewing it instead as a challenge, and one she didn’t feel ready for. Now, she knows the glance is full of encouragement and she is excited to contribute to those around her.