BY: Nick DeVico
Over the past 5 years, the Youth and Family Services Connections 2020 program has supported under-resourced young adults' transition to self-sufficiency through skill development, subsidized internships, and relationship building. Every day, the program has strived to live out its name and connect young people to what they need most: healthy, supportive relationships. We have witnessed firsthand the power of relationships and how they serve as the foundation for growth and stability for transition-age youth. As our staff worked tirelessly to ensure young people established the support system required to succeed, we also found so much depth and growth in the relationships the staff themselves created with participants. As the Program Director, I had a front-row seat to watch these mutually beneficial relationships develop as they challenged both staff and participants to discover more about themselves and become better people in the process.
Reflecting back over the last 5 years has reminded me of something extremely important: to thrive, people just need a chance. Young people can flourish when given the opportunities and resources everyone needs. Some individuals are lucky to be born with these opportunities while others are asked to create them on their own. This has proven a true lesson in the understanding of equity and the necessity of providing all people, regardless of their socioeconomic background, a fair chance at “success”, whatever that may look like to the individual.
A true highlight of the Connections 2020 program involves a young man named Eduardo*.
Eduardo’s background included the foster care system, consistent homelessness, and a lack of a strong and healthy support system. While working with our team, Eduardo became incarcerated. Upon his release, the first stop he made was to the office of his Connections Coach, Anette Ruiz. Eduardo had formed such a strong relationship with Anette and the Connections 2020 staff that he knew he had a safe place to go and safe people to confide in during a time when his own familial support system was not able to provide this for him. It has been an honor and privilege to hold this space for young people, to have an open door (literally and figurately) and walk alongside participants as they create beautiful futures for themselves.
Through its work, the Connections 2020 program demonstrated that with a healthy support system, people believing in you, and a sprinkle of relational skills, the sky is the limit for any young person facing barriers. Although this iteration of the Connections 2020 program has formally come to an end, the spirit and hope of it live on in all our Youth and Family Services programs. We continue to be committed to empowering young people to build and maintain healthy relationships in all areas of their lives, understanding that no program or service (no matter how wonderful) can take the place of committed and loving humans.
Thank you to everyone who has journeyed with us in loving and supporting young people through the Connections 2020 program; we are grateful for your partnership, inspired by your passion, and cannot wait to continue to transform our communities together.
*Name changed for confidentiality purposes.
Learn more about our work in youth and young adult development.
Nick DeVico served as the Program Director for the Connections 2020 and currently serves as a Project Director for Youth and Family Services. He graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a Master's Degree in Public Administration. When Nick isn’t supporting young people, he enjoys travelling, watching too many sporting events, and listening to music. During Covid-19, he has been practicing self-care by eating burritos, working out and watching hours of TV.