As a pilot site for the National Council for Behavioral Health’s CONNECTED grant, our Immigration and Refugee Services team has made great strides in creating a support group and space for youth to express themselves. They have gauged local youth interest and availability, organized outreach, contacted community partners, and planned excursions for youth bonding. Our three youth innovators have learned how health and human services programs operate, how to conduct interviews, administer surveys, collect responses, and understand data.
Our three youth influencers; Danny, Richard, and Sam; originally received legal and/or social services from Immigration and Refugee Services and were nominated by staff who recognized their intelligence, drive, and capacity. Anna Karina Delage, Supervising Case Manager, shares, “I have known Danny since 2017. He always preferred to try to speak in English. He has grown from a timid, shy teen to a young adult with dreams, goals, and a strong voice. Richard has been openhearted, brave, and excited since the project started. Sam has presented our project to community partners, started the ball rolling on many ideas, and is always ready to ask questions.”
The group recently traveled to Denver for a conference where they presented their project to other CONNECTED grantees and health professionals. “At her first training in Denver, Sam started off shy but ended up expressing her truth about how her family’s status influences her identity. I saw Richard interacting more with others, telling his story, and speaking from the heart. He is a born leader. The entire room felt the power of their warm presence. They have SO MUCH to contribute!” says Anna Karina.
Danny hopes to provide opportunities for young people to spread their wings. He reveals, “I hope to create a space where young people can express themselves – where they can understand the importance of mental health and lead happy lives by being themselves, not just what others expect them to be. I knew that this project was going to reach many people and change lives like how it has changed mine. I have learned to tell my story and create a platform for others who may not have the courage to tell their stories yet. Because being different is not bad. Porque ser diferente no es malo.”
We look forward to witnessing Danny, Richard, and Sam’s growth as they bring more local youth into this project.
Learn more about Immigration and Refugee Services here.