YoungLife’s mission is to go where kids are. Meeting them where they are in life, spending genuine quality time, and teaching them the gospel has been YoungLife’s time-tested model. While the typical YoungLife region puts on clubs and camps, the Gotham City Region has developed a model that further reaches where kids are: their schools.
YoungLife Gotham City is rapidly growing. Moving from working with a 500-kid capacity to 4,750 kids over just eight years, the organizations vision is to eventually impact 12,000 kids over all of New York City’s 59 community districts.
A large part of YoungLife’s growth in the city is due to their collaborative work with schools. In 2011, 20/20 Vision for Schools challenged YoungLife, “to demonstrate that Young Life’s presence on a public school campus improves educational outcomes for students,” according to 20/20’s director Jeremy Del Rio. The two organizations formed a strategic partnership aiming at making a significant difference. After joining forces with 20/20, YoungLife committed to 11 school partnerships. After two fruitful years, YoungLife is now committed to a school in every neighborhood they minister to.
To meet the challenge, 20/20 and YoungLife collaborated to provide wrap-around supports for high-risk students. Together the two established programs for the performing arts, athletics, student leadership, and mentoring at 11 city schools from Harlem to Queens, and from Brooklyn to Washington Heights.
As YoungLife expands its efforts, passion grows as well for the city’s neighborhood schools, according to an article posted by YoungLife Gotham City:
Alberto Avila, Young Life Area Director for Washington Heights, enters the world of students daily and tells what life is like [for the area’s 36 public schools]. “Many of these kids are growing up alone, or in single-parent families. The drop out rate for students is greater than 50%. Unemployment is at 14% in our neighborhood. Gangs, drugs and violence are prevalent. Where are kids supposed to turn when they run out of options?”
Fueled by Alberto’s unquenchable enthusiasm, Young Life envisions meeting this challenge by developing a mentoring program for students and setting a long-term goal of having a Young Life presence in all 36 schools. “Our kids need someone who can show up and care for them, cheer for them, challenge them, but most importantly love them and keep loving them,” says Alberto.
YoungLife’s collaborative and school-focused approach in the city takes the organization beyond its usual program, further meeting New York City’s kids where they are.