An important part of JCCA’s approach to helping troubled teens is to encourage them to volunteer and help others. The abused and neglected youth on our Pleasantville Campus take part in a youth development program that counsels them and helps them learn important life skills and attitudes to living successfully in the community as adults.
Gerard Burrell, JCCA Youth Coordinator, sees the enormous benefits for the youth. “It grounds them and sensitizes them to the needs of other people. They learn by interacting with others who get something from giving back.” He recruited teens from four JCCA programs on the Westchester Campus to volunteer in the food pantry of Tarrytown Opportunity Center. The pantry is open twice a week, and about 100 households take advantage of the program. Every week since February, the teens have helped unload a truck bringing food, set up the tables and put together the bags of groceries to be distributed. They have also served food and even sung every month at the dinner the Center hosts for seniors!
Volunteering helps the participants in many ways. “They play a role as a person who is successful in the community. And the connection to someone older reminds them of family,” says Mr. Burrell. Tiana was delighted to volunteer. “It is an amazing feeling to give back to the community and help people in need. It makes me feel like a great person, not only on the inside, but on the outside, too.”
Bernard (pictured above), who helped break up ice and snow during the rough winter so the delivery truck could make it up the Center’s driveway, says, “As we completed tasks, I started to realize that I was in a place where I was respected, and not looked at as a bad person in life. This gave me more confidence in myself as a young man. Thank you, Mr. Burrell, for giving me this opportunity to show who I could be in society. I won’t let you down.”
Mr. Burrell says, “The volunteering experience makes a real impact on the youth. It teaches them lessons that stay with them long after they have left us.”