My internship with Focus Forward has been an enriching and rewarding experience. It has served as a growing experience, developing my professional skills as a counselor and mentor. While talking with my youth, I have to face some insecurities and overcome them in order to provide my youth with the best possible help. Interacting with the youth has touched my heart. Listening to their stories of hardship, struggles, relationships and dreams has deepened my commitment to helping youth discover a new way of living and discover their own talents and strengths that will give them the power to change their life.
My meetees come form environment that usually supports their behaviors. Many come from families that have several generations of gang members and drug addicts. Their role models were those who they deemed powerful: brothers, sisters, moms, and dads who commit or encourage violent acts or partake in drug. These role models normalize bad behaviors, making them a way of life. However, each youth has expressed a desire to change and dream of a life better than the one they know. All they need are the tools and encouragement to do so.
One of my most memorable mentoring sessions was with a youth who had difficulty following directions and did not like authority. One session he tells me he wants to be promoted to a higher level stage before his release after being on redirection contract (RDC) for 5 months. At the next meeting, he was like a totally different person. Beaming, he told me that he did not only been promoted to a stage 1 but was also promoted to stage 2. I was so proud of him.
Focus Forward is an amazing organization that gives youth incarcerated at the Fresno County Juvenile Justice Campus the tools to change their life. As mentors we have the opportunity to intervene in a young adult’s life as a critical crisis point, and help them make decisions that will give them a second chance. It is an incredibly rewarding experience knowing that we are making a difference one interaction at a time.