By Kimberley A. Lee
VP Office of Advancement
My daughter Nolah and I were together on a recent trip to the grocery store. We picked up steak tips, and French bread, then saw a large bin with freshly picked corn on the cob. Nolah pays close attention to detail and she noticed many ears had their husks peeled down, just a little. She took a closer look and found these ears had something in common: a little bit of brown near the tip. Some shoppers looked only at the very end of those ears, decided they mustn’t be any good, and tossed them back on the pile.
I wondered why those shoppers didn’t bother to pull the husk down enough to see if the whole ear was good. And in that moment, I thought about eight young men in CHD’s Secure Residential Treatment program who just a few weeks ago, successfully graduated from a program called Your Future Starts Now that teaches professionalism, leadership and entrepreneurship. All critical skills necessary to securing and sustaining employment.
Your Future Starts Now modifies a proven 4-H leadership curriculum. Program facilitators from Student Bridges met with the participants for two hours twice a week for four weeks. Topics included interviewing skills, resume writing, networking, and personal accountability. Specific career opportunities were presented in fields such as the restaurant business and working with animals, but it goes beyond that.
If you didn’t know these young people were in a Department of Youth Services secure residential treatment facility, you wouldn’t have guessed. Their transformation has been remarkable. At their graduation event they were respectful, confident and justifiably proud of their accomplishment. Family members, program staff and members of the community came to offer support and congratulations, listen to a keynote speech about overcoming adversity, and celebrate over a shared meal.
CHD is excited to offer this program. We’re applying grant money generously provided by MassMutual and leveraging existing community resources through 4-H, UMass Extension, and the Student Bridges organization. Together, we are providing programming that is helping troubled youth get their lives on track with brighter futures.
At home, as my daughter and I shucked corn, I wondered out loud if those kids who’d just graduated had been looked at only at the surface when they were growing up. Had a responsible adult ever given them a deeper look? Too often, we aren’t willing to think beyond our prejudices or look past things we hold true, but which aren’t based on everyone’s reality.
“Mom, everywhere you go, you’re always thinking about CHD,” Nolah said, both smiling and shaking her head at me. She’s right, and it’s important because CHD affects nearly every social challenge in our community. CHD is supporting services, offering resources and running programs that address so many needs. It’s hard to go anywhere without being able to reference the good work of the organization and the many community partners like 4H that make that work possible.
“That sounds like a really cool program, mom” Nolah told me. “Sometimes good people just make bad choices because no one looked at them deep inside. It’s kind of like finding a really good ear of corn. You need to take a closer look.”