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Stories from the Mat – “Before Level Ground, I Struggled with Being Hungry”

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Program Assistants had the opportunity to travel to New York and represent Level Ground at the world-famous Marcelo Garcia Academy

Eight months ago, I became convinced that in order to create deeper impact, Level Ground must develop a Youth Employment program.  Financial constraints and a lack of professional development opportunities were not just hindering our students’ growth, but their ability to function on a day-to-day basis.  One young man had a criminal record prohibiting him from obtaining employment.  Another had turned to the streets in search of more lucrative opportunities after his job search proved in vain.  Furthermore, after noticing that several youth had difficulty in maintaining a job for more than a couple of months, I realized that certain students would require more intensive case-management to succeed in the workplace. We would need to cultivate an employment model that blended rigor and challenge with patience and understanding…and the Martial Arts Instructor-Student relationship was a natural way to create this culture.

“I used to struggle with finding food, being hungry.

The haze of urban poverty is very real.

But thanks to Level Ground, I’ve found an income.

I’ve found a leader in myself.

I’ve found a second chance.” – J., age 16

FAST FORWARD – Level Ground’s “Assistantship” (Employment & Internship) Program now serves 6 students. One court-involved youth has maintained employment with us for over 7 months.  Another has left the streets completely.  Others have reported that they would have no access to leadership and skill-building opportunities were it not for Level Ground.  Of this cohort, we provide four students with part-time wages.  Our goal is to offer an additional 2 paying jobs in the next 6 months.

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Program Assistants host a table at the City Awake Expo

We are not running the run-of-the-mill youth employment program, but aim to create a rigorous experience that grooms even the most disconnected youth for professional success.  On Monday evenings, students engage in a 2-hour long “Professional Bootcamp” that is designed and facilitated by our older students.  These sessions take place at Impact Hub located in the Financial District of Boston, ensuring that students learn how to operate in a professional environment.  Here, we reflect on the previous week – our successes and challenges – and create ambitious goals moving forward. A high level of accountability is the norm.

Over the course of the week, our ‘youth staff’ perform a variety of functions, including assisting in MMA instruction to new students, public speaking at community events, and managing ‘special projects’ including the design of our communication materials and media.

“I am excited to work with Level Ground because it teaches me about discipline and to work with other people, and to learn many different skills that I can apply in my life.” –JN., age 16 

We are confident that our Assistantship Program will prove life changing for our kids, especially when looking at 3 Key Points of Impact that employment provides for youth:

1. Employment ensures that our students basic needs are met

40% of Latino and 35% of Black youth in Boston live in poverty in Boston (The Boston Foundation.)  Employment is not only crucial for building soft skills or instilling values such as responsibility or work ethic, but is often essential for providing basic necessities.  If food and clothing are lacking, it stifles our students’ growth in all aspects of life.

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Brainstorming session at Impact Hub where students identified professional norms to hold themselves accountable

 2. Employment increases the likelihood that our students will obtain a college degree

Students that have poor grades and low education goals (representing the majority of our population) are 3 times more likely to acquire a college degree if they work for 14 hours per week than teens that do not. (The Pennsylvania State University)

 3. Employment increases future salaries

Teens that work during high school and college receive salaries 16% higher than those that do not. (The Boston Globe).

Yet there lies a disconnect between the need for youth jobs and the opportunity that exists for our students. In the summer of 2013, for instance, half of white male teens had jobs in comparison to 9% of Black males.

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Students breakout into teams to discuss project goals

True to our mission, we refuse to allow this opportunity gap to remain. Our students have an incredible capacity to do great things, and we are determined to a) help them see themselves this way, b) help them determine their personal and professional goals, c) help them cultivate transferable skill sets to leverage in the pursuit of these goals.  Help US achieve this mission.

 

Please join us in providing permanent jobs for our current youth staff, as well as providing this opportunity to 2 more youth in 2015! 

Create a LEVEL GROUND for Boston.  Give today.

$50 provides one professional development workshop.

$120 provides one youth with employment for one week.

$480 provides one youth with employment for one month.

$6,000 provides one youth with employment for an entire year.

Level Ground Featured In December’s Boston.com

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Level Ground is thrilled to be featured in the December 9, 2014 Boston.com article, “‘City Awake’ Aims to Make Boston the Center of a New Social Impact Industry.”

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Students host a table at the City Awake Expo

The article cites Level Ground as a successful embodiment of the social impact sector’s strides to connect and catalyze organizations and people to help under-served communities.

This month, Level Ground partnered with City Awake, Boston’s Social Impact Festival, to host three events: a discussion on Youth Development, an Open-House, and a Women’s Self-Defense.  Through this experience, we were able to connect with dozens of organizations and individuals to form additional partnerships.  We look forward to working together to enhance the collective impact of our organizations and better serve our beautiful students!

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Level Ground hosted a killer Women’s Self-Defense Seminar at Impact Hub Boston.

 

 

December 11th, 2014

Posted In: Organizations, People, Success

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