¡YouthWorks! It isn’t magic – but it sure feels like it.

By: Tom DuBois, AmericaCorps VISTA | October 11, 2016
Arriving at ¡YouthWorks! is always exciting!  The parking lot can be quiet, but it’s usually not.  If you make it past the gauntlet of hungry, eager youth without a few glares of distrust, you must be a familiar face and adept at the hand slapping fist bump.  Arriving on the Tuesday morning before Zozobra felt like there was more excitement, and there were definitely more folks than typical.  It was all hands on deck for ¡YouthWorks!’ “Day Off” where staff and students volunteered to help prepare Fort Marcy Park for the Kiwanis annual Zozobra event.
When the key to one of the 15 passenger vans won’t turn and a few kids try banging in special spots, prying at the steering wheel to expose the ignition to no avail – you’ve got to adjust.  Luckily, the ¡YouthWorks! staff is flexible and willing to switch to multiple smaller vehicles to transport everyone.  Of course, the case manager in an SUV with rims and some bass in the back filled her car up first.Next time you see a rough looking van full of tough looking kids weaving through traffic on Cerrillos don’t be scared, be happy that ¡YouthWorks! is transporting young people to work and providing them with opportunities they’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.After arriving at the park and getting to work, the day moved along.  While setting up aluminum ped-rail and convincing snow fence to behave some good conversations were had and observed.  I had a chance to talk Culinary with a kid who is motivated and it was nice to see some of the ¡YouthWorks!  Santa Fe YouthBuild crowd begin to recognize me and open up.While the agenda may have officially been: “set-up for Zozobra,” I enjoyed watching the subtler and unplanned social connections being made and reinforced.  Hearing staff quietly provide individualized guidance on everything from relationships to education to job readiness sounded like good, in-the-moment case management and workforce development.  Letting kids who have had success lead and work alongside kids aspiring toward it was neat to see.  Even though overhearing a group of kids hashing out the details of a mom getting arrested for her boyfriend’s heroin use may have sounded like toxic conversation on the surface, it’s often necessary to vent one’s problems before you can move forward to solutions.  Every time I’m at a ¡YouthWorks! activity, I’m struck by the forward movement that I see.  The positive youth development seems to just magically happen.  I know it’s not magic.  It takes careful planning and a dedicated staff.

I chose to highlight this day because I felt it exhibited what many disconnected youth need.  Through job training and job placement, life skills development, counseling, education, and leadership development – ¡YouthWorks! continues to inspire young Santa Feans to reach their full potential.

¡YouthWorks! is a community based organization working to create opportunities for disconnected youth and families in Northern New Mexico to become engaged and valued members of their communities. To find out more, visit their website.

Check Out Our Wishlist!


Part of my work takes me to Youth Shelters’ Street Outreach Program.  In addition to hitting the streets to provide support to homeless youth, they also run a Drop-in Resource Center.  Located in downtown Santa Fe at 402 South St. Francis Dr., the center is where young people can take showers, do laundry, get food, clothing, hygiene, camping and other supplies. They are also able to make phone calls, use the internet and receive help with a number of needs including taking the G.E.D., obtaining various forms of ID, filling out job applications, and securing housing.  Naturally, the center’s list of needs is ever evolving and any help is always appreciated.  This is a picture of their current wishlist, feel free to drop off any donations either there or at the Santa Fe Community Foundation c/o Tom DuBois.

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