December 2015 Newsletter

High school freshman and PYO newcomer Qaadir M. got up early on a Saturday morning in November to attend the My Brother's Keeper event downtown. He said being around other young men of color and sharing experiences was a real eye-opener.

High school freshman and PYO newcomer Qaadir M. got up early on a Saturday morning in November to attend the My Brother’s Keeper event downtown. He said being around other young men of color and sharing experiences was a real eye-opener.

Qaadir also spent the same Saturday morning helping PYO put the Langley Community Garden on Kent Street to rest for the winter. Here he weeds a bed and begins preparing to plant a fig tree.

Qaadir also spent the same Saturday morning helping PYO put the Langley Community Garden on Kent Street to rest for the winter. Here he weeds a bed and begins preparing to plant a fig tree.

Dear PYO Community,

Here’s an update of what we have been doing…

Our End of the Year Annual Report is Ready! Find it here.

Empowering Youth One Vote at a Time

PYO students are an eager bunch, and whenever an opportunity pops up to help out in the community, there is usually always a number willing to step up to the plate.

Eshe B. shows a young Durham County voter how to properly fill out a ballot.

Eshe B. shows a young Durham County voter how to properly fill out a ballot.

On election day, Eshe. B, Teona M. and Brooklyn C., as well as their mentors Jaronda Ingram and Ingrid Nelson spent the afternoon at the Durham County Main Library introducing school-aged kids to the voting process in collaboration with Kids Voting Durham.

Our students showed children how to fill in their ballots, answered questions and handed out stickers and bookmarks to kids that “voted.” After their shifts were completed, PYO and students carried the ballots to where they would be counted.

Although PYO has helped KVD out in the past, for students participating this time, it was their first experience. All three said they would gladly volunteer again.

College Application Help in Full Effect

November, December and January are crunch time for high school seniors hoping to enroll in college next fall. This is the time that high school seniors have to worry about registering and taking the S.A.T. and ACT, fill out financial aid assistance forms and send off college applications.

PYO board member and long-time supporter Nancy Safrit (left) helps Zari M. fill out applications for N.C. A & T and Spellman College.

PYO board member and long-time supporter Nancy Safrit (left) helps Zari M. fill out applications for N.C. A & T and Spellman College.

To help ease the stress and burden that comes with applying for school, PYO is hosting a series of college application forums in which students get one on one help from staff, board members and volunteers that have been through the process. Each student gets a laptop and plenty of time to work. PYO also provided pamphlets and brochures on a wide array of schools as well as information on scholarships.

The application parties, as students call the events, are the brain child of board member and PYO volunteer Amy Daubert and its inaugural was a success. A majority of PYO’s high school seniors attended the event and nearly everyone was able to complete at least one application.

The next college application workshops are scheduled for Tues. Dec. 8 and Tues. Dec. 15 at Lyon Park from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Discovering Careers Through Job Site Visits

Learning more about careers has always been a staple of the organization. Since last school year, PYO uses Durham Public Schools early release days as an opportunity to show students workplaces that they may not ordinarily have access to. The idea is to show interested students what a day may look like in their lives if they decide to follow certain career paths.

A panel of long-time Blue Cross Blue Shield professionals shared advice for PYO students interested in going into the healthcare industry.

A panel of long-time Blue Cross Blue Shield professionals shared advice for PYO students interested in going into the healthcare industry.

In November students interested in working in the healthcare industry visited the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina campus in which our host and longtime PFY/YO:Durham supporter, Cheryl Parquet, the community relations program manager, guided them on a tour of the company’s unique building. Afterward, students sat in on panel discussions in which new and long-time BCBSNC employees shared their experiences in college and their careers as well as offered advice on how to be successful in whatever endeavor students choose to follow.

Our group of youth said they walked away with three positive messages from the panelists: “always embrace being different,” “never, ever give up,” and just as important, “you are not a product of your environment but what you say you are.”

PYO plans on returning to BCBS in a few months.

Longtime PYO Mothers Throw Support Behind the Organization

PYO is built to act as a sustaining model not only organizationally but also to our families with multiple children. We actively recruit siblings of current and past students because we believe the more you touch members of the same family, the more impact our work can have on that family and community at large.

Two moms that have had their children enrolled in PYO for years recently shared with us their reasoning why.

Jackie’s Story:

Jackie Aiken and her family have lived in the neighborhood surrounding PYO for years. At first she didn’t know about the program until her daughter, Trina, found it on her own and told her about it.

Serina and Jackie A.

Serina and Jackie A.

After Trina joined what was then PFY, and began participating in the program, her mother began to notice changes in her.

“Trina was always a private person, one not to really share things,” said Jackie. “After being in PFY for a while, I noticed how it helped her to open up and blossom.”

“I saw a change in her in she wanted to go do more things with them,” she said. “She’d open up and tell you how she felt about things and her grades were improving.”

Trina took full advantage of PFY with tutoring, college visits, opportunities to learn through work and more. She has been an active recruiter and advocate for the program since she started and is now a sophomore at East Carolina University.

Jackie said with her interest piqued, she decided to get her son, Gene, involved, too. Like Trina, he too was an introverted child wanting to get involved.

“I told him I want you to get this, too,” she said. “The program helped him out a lot in he came out of his shell. It helped him to participate and be a part of.”

After graduating PYO, Gene went on to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Pleased with the support PYO had given two of her children already, Jackie said it was a “no-brainer” to send her youngest daughter, Serina, through the program’s doors.

Serina, a senior in high school, also takes advantage of PYO’s tutoring, intern opportunities and college visits – the most recent to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Jackie said one of the best aspects about the program is that it’s entirely voluntary and that in turn helps students in the long run.

“PYO doesn’t make kids do anything,” she said. “It gives you the tools to succeed. They have to want to do it themselves.”

With recent added program dimensions like student savings accounts, Jackie said the program gets better each year. She calls it a “big confidence booster.”

“PYO teaches students that just because it’s difficult, it doesn’t mean they can’t do it,”” she said. “PYO always builds kids up.”

Maribel’s Story:

Maribel Herrera first ran across the organization several years ago. She had a daughter, Michelle, a high school sophomore at the time, who was a good student behaviorally but struggled with keeping her grades up. Calculus in particular was giving her a hard time. Maribel wanted some support for her daughter and a friend recommended Partners for Youth and it’s tutoring aspect.

Antonio and Maribel Cervantes

Antonio and Maribel Cervantes

“Tutoring really helped Michelle’s grades get better,” said Maribel. “It got her involved.”

Michelle is now a student at Wake Technical College working on graduation.

Once Maribel saw the grade improvements for her eldest daughter she began to wonder if PFY could be a benefit for her next oldest child, Antonio.

Back then college was one of the farthest things from Antonio’s mind. He needed motivation

“He used to not talk about college or going to college,” Maribel said. “I had to push him.”
But eventually, with time, that began to change.

“Once he got in the program all he talked about was college,” she said.

Since going through the program and graduating high school, Antonio is now a freshman at East Carolina University.

Over the years, as Partners for Youth merged into Partners for Youth Opportunity, Maribel has seen the organization grow from about two dozen students into what it is today with close to 80 participants.

She appreciated the intimacy of the smaller organization and the easy accessibility to staff.
But even as PYO has grown exponentially, Maribel said she doesn’t think that has changed the family atmosphere of the program.

“I can just pick up the phone and call Ms. Julie or anybody,” she said.

After having success with her first two children, Maribel decided to enroll her youngest daughter, Diana.

“At first she didn’t want to go, but I made her,” said Maribel. “I liked the program because of the community service and everything else it offers. They keep the kids busy and I want to them to be busy.”

Diana is now a junior in high school and has been working successfully in an internship through PYO.

Maribel also praises PYO’s scholarship program and how it helps students go off to college with some kind of monetary support. She said it was tough on her as a single mom to scrape together money for things like laptops.

“PYO has been a blessing,” she said. “We didn’t have money to send them off to school with a laptop. The scholarship for books was a big help, too.”

It’s been years since Maribel’s friend first introduced her to the organization. She has recruited her children’s cousins and her kids themselves have recruited several friends to join.

“I know everybody – parents, staff and all people involved,” she said. “I will always tell people about the program.”

PYO Staff and students wish you and yours a happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year!

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Partners for Youth Opportunity  
1309 Halley Street
Durham, NC 27707 USA

Mail : [email protected]
Phone : (919) 536-4230