A Second Chance: Highlight of New Life Centers
David**, a male in his early twenties, first initiated services through BPNN partner New Life Centers approximately four years ago. New Life Centers offers a range of supportive programs, including street outreach, mentoring services, group interventions, and sports-based development opportunities, for youth who have a history of gang involvement and who are disconnected from school and employment opportunities.
At the time that David first connected with New Life Centers, he was heavily involved in the streets and had been stabbed during an altercation. A mentor at New Life Centers visited David at his home after he had been stabbed to provide information about New Life Centers’ services and to see how he could be of support to David. David’s initial request was for support with picking up a medical prescription. His mentor responded to this initial request, and that marked the beginning of a trusting and supportive relationship. David was experiencing multiple stressors following his stabbing, including relational stressors and upcoming court dates. David was also coping with the traumatic aftermath of experiencing acts of violence, and he carried a gun with him at all times in order to feel safe. Recognizing the stress that David was experiencing, his mentor encouraged him to call at any time of day or night when he was in need of someone to talk to. When David was in need of support at one o’clock or two o’clock in the morning, his mentor was there to answer the phone. David frequently reached out to his mentor in moments of high stress, and he and his mentor together were able to identify positive outlets for expressing his emotions. David’s mentor accompanied him throughout multiple encounters with the legal system, providing critical emotional support at a time when he felt isolated and alone. David’s mentor visited him during a stay at the county jail, and was present to advocate for him at a series of court dates.
With the advocacy support of his mentor, all of David’s legal charges were dropped. David’s mentor additionally provided him with a space to explore and pursue his personal and professional goals. In the present day, David has a job in the field of culinary arts, rents his own apartment, and is working toward purchasing his own property. He is also pursuing an interest in sports. David is no longer involved with the streets and does not feel the necessity to carry a gun. His mentor continues to be a supportive and trusting presence in his life. David reported that throughout all of his struggles, it was hugely impactful to know that he was not alone. Not only did his mentor show up for him physically and emotionally, but he also showed David that he cared about him and believed in him during a critical juncture in his life. David’s story is a testament to the transformative power of trusting relationships and reminds us what is possible when we embrace and celebrate the inherent strengths of our youth.
The trauma of chronic exposure to community violence is a reality for far too many Brighton Park youth. Recognizing that creating opportunities for healing is the key to interrupting cycles of violence, BPNN partner New Life Centers has an entire team of street outreach workers dedicated to facilitating opportunities for healing among youth who have a history of gang involvement and who are disconnected from school and employment opportunities. New Life Center’s outreach workers take on multiple roles in their work with youth. Through their consistent presence on the streets in Brighton Park, they become safe and trusted community leaders who youth can turn to for a range of needs, spanning from transportation to help obtaining a driver’s license to emotional support. Relationship building is foundational to all of New Life Center’s work. Outreach workers at New Life Centers reject the common misconceptions and stereotypes that criminalize youth who are involved with the streets, and instead recognize that safe and trusting relationships are essential for youth to actualize their inherent strengths. New Life Center’s outreach workers provide the space for youth to share their emotional struggles and feel heard in a context where social and emotional support is often limited. Through this relationally focused model of service delivery, New Life Centers plays an instrumental role in facilitating opportunities for healing that are critical to the BPNN’s efforts to decrease violence in our community.
** Names have been changed for privacy.
Learn more about the work of New Life Centers at https://newlifecenters.org/en/.