Notes from the Bald Man – August 2018August 1st, 2018
Dear Community Builders,
Last week a few non-profit leaders from the county were invited by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to go look at agencies in New York that have done good work around youth homelessness—by youth, we are talking 18-25 year olds. DHHS plans to open a center in East County in the new year that will offer a variety of services for this population, which includes education, which is why LCMC and our friends at the Latin American Youth Center were present.
I won’t get into too much detail about the two organizations we visited, but to give a sense, one group, DOORS NYC, was in SoHo and served thousands of clients 12-24 every year with everything from psychological, to medical, to legal and educational support. It also helped house clients who were still on the streets. The other organization, the Ali Forney Center, was based out of Harlem—less than ten blocks from where I started my teaching career. Similar to DOORS NYC, it helped clients by supporting them with a complete wrap-around approach, but the center was geared towards LGBT youth up to the age of 25.
In both places, we saw a ton of art and heard music and laughter, and sometimes, we even heard drama carried in from the street. It’s all part of the mix, and all part of what one sees at drop-in centers like these. It’s life: the good, the bad, the ugly and the sublime—all of it mixing around.
I bring all of this up because as I start my second year here at LCMC, we have made a number of changes, and though I have received a lot of support for what we are pushing towards, I also know that there have been
some questions about why a Literacy Council is talking a lot less about literacy and a lot more about workplace readiness, poverty reduction, and community building.
These are good questions, and I imagine that as we push forward in new directions this year, more of you will have the same questions because eventually, these changes will affect you directly. For tutors, just to name one group, you will notice that this month your report will be changing. The changes in that report come out of a need to get our data into reports that our staff can learn from, so they can better support you as tutors.
Of course, the changes we are making run deeper than reports. We just got funding to go into local restaurants and help up-skill culinary workers not just with academic help but with a curriculum that will get them a national certification in customer service.
Did I mention we want to roll out workshops this year in digital and financial literacy? And I don’t want to scare anyone, but I am starting to look for a way for us to create a small business whose proceeds will support an entrepreneurial incubator space for high-skilled immigrants. (More on that in 2019.)
So why? Why all the changes? What does all of this have to do with LCMC? And even if you are following along, you might be wondering, why now? Why all of this at once?
The answer, quite simply, is that the need is great, and that if we are going to take on the need that exists in this county, we cannot just take one piece on and wait. We can’t really be successful in adult education if we see our work as ending when our class or tutoring session is over. Most of what stops a learner from succeeding with us has nothing to do with education; rather, it has to do with life-stuff that keeps the learner from us.
If I take nothing else from the trip to New York, I take that lesson, though it’s not like I didn’t know this already. Those two organizations are huge and are successful because they knew from the start that they had to do as much as they could for their clients. They had to cross sectors and take on challenges because the populations they worked for were constantly taking on one challenge after the next.
Now, to be clear: we are not going to be able to emulate the organizations I visited—not exactly. We are not going to have a health clinic and we won’t have an army of social workers on call. We are, first and foremost, an educational entity. We build community through education. There are limits to what LCMC can do, and I do respect those limits. Also, we are not NYC. We are in an affluent county, and we have other partners to provide services that are beyond our scope.
BUT, if it has to do with training or educating, I think it has to be and needs to be our work to take on, and we are going to do our best to hit that mark in the most holistic way possible for us.
It’s an exciting time for us as a group. I hope you will agree. In the fall, I will hit the road again and do another series of townhall meet-ups. Stay tuned. Come out and say hi and ask questions. I will be looking forward to meeting up and thinking through how we play our part in mitigating the need that many face in this county.
As always, we need your help and your ideas. Keep helping!! Keep pushing!!!