By Erica Jacquez, Youth Partner, Apriranet Kern County
May 2019 marks eight years of my career with Aspiranet Wraparound, and because I was recently promoted to Core Program Supervisor, my role has changed quite a bit. However, I would like to take the time to reflect on my years as a Youth Partner. Being a Youth Partner has changed throughout all these years but what has remained constant is the voice and hope we give to all the youth in Wraparound. As a Youth Partner, I was the voice for a child in need: A child who has experienced pain and trauma. To become the voice for that child, the Youth Partner must first build rapport and gain the child’s trust. This allows a relationship to form and then the Youth Partner can begin to build that child’s hope: Hope for the future, their family and mostly hope for themselves.
It can be hard to explain what exactly a Youth Partner does because we wear so many hats: school tutor, advocate, counselor, supporter, cheerleader, and a shoulder to cry on. Each of these roles are rolled into one Youth Partner. Youth Partners also work on communication skills, coping skills, and social skills in various creative forms. Learning new skills empowers the child and strengthens the relationship of the child and Youth Partner. This further allows the child to develop her voice and hope with the support of the Youth Partner. Ultimately the goal is for children to have hope for a better life and a strong voice within their families.
Youth Partners also plan various events to engage the child and their family. We have monthly girls’ group, guys’ group and Saturday events. These vary from community involvement such as tours at local colleges, a day at the zoo, a hike at the local nature preserve, or other events such as game day and paint day at the office. Some events are based on holidays and seasons such as the Spring Picnic, Halloween Carnival and Thanksgiving Feast. These events can open the eyes of the youth to their community because many have not been exposed to these things. I can recall last year’s holiday lights tour in December, when a reluctant teen did not want to attend, but with my encouragement she went and had an amazing time. She took pictures and shared about holiday traditions with her family and her future holiday traditions for when she grows up. Through events and exposure to their own communities, our children are provided opportunities to fortify their voice and hope.
Now that I am in the role of Core Program Supervisor for Youth Partners, I can provide support to the Youth Partners themselves. I can be their cheerleader and shoulder to cry on when they have difficult cases. I can assist in strengthening their skills so that they can provide the best service to the children on their caseload. I can be their voice and advocate for the needs of Youth Partners, so in turn they continue to strengthen children’s voices and hope.