Program Spotlight: Jewish Agency For Israel's Youth Futures
804,000 and counting.
That's the number of Israeli children - more than one in four - who live at or below the poverty line, contributing to a growing population of youth-at-risk.
The Jewish Agency for Israel's (JAFI) Youth Futures program, which receives funding from The Jewish Federations of North America, works to change this difficult reality by supporting and empowering elementary and middle-school youth-at-risk (ages 9-14). Youth Futures is designed to give these youngsters the tools and resources they need to succeed and the opportunities to overcome their disadvantage, allowing them to move beyond the social and geographic conditions that threaten their development.
Youth Futures is based on the relationship between a child and his/her "trustee," a young adult who serves as both a mentor and a coach. The trustee lives in the community and works with each individual child to come up with a set of short and long-term goals in the areas of personal growth, scholastic achievement, social environment and family environment. The trustee works as a bridge between the child, teachers and parents to find and utilize the appropriate resources for the child within the framework of the goals they set together. Each trustee serves as a role model for a group of 10-20 children-at-risk, having the ability to significantly impact the future of the community.
"My work as a Youth Futures trustee is hard, but very fulfilling," says Adi, who has worked for the Youth Futures program in her home community of Sderot. "These children need someone to support them, to guide and encourage them, and that's what I do. I want to help them to change their lives and thinking patterns and to see all the possibilities that exist for them."
Each mentor undergoes more than 100 hours of initial and ongoing training and has a support system made up of local community professionals. In addition to working within the structured education system, they encourage children to get involved in extra-curricular activities designed to boost self-esteem and social skills. An enrichment budget is provided for each participant to cover the costs of extra-curricular activities and equipment as needed, including activities during the summer months.
Since its inception in 2005, Youth Futures has expanded to 32 locations across the country and has helped over 6,000 children. While contending with a growing need, evaluations conducted through the Center for Enhancement in Education at Ben-Gurion University found that Youth Futures helped its participants develop a stronger ability to cope with the pressures of growing up and contributed to their overall happiness.
Of equal importance is how Youth Futures follows through with its graduates, ensuring their personal growth continues after completing the initial three-year program. Youth Futures helps these "trustee graduates" re-evaluate their personal goals, specifically encouraging them in preparing for matriculation exams.
Central to Youth Futures is its partnership with The Jewish Federations of North America and local Israeli community organizations and philanthropists, each committed to investing in Israel's future leaders. In each location, Youth Futures is funded as a partnership between the Jewish Agency for Israel, federation communities and an Israeli donors.
For more information, visit the Youth Futures section of JAFI's website.
Youth Futures gives youth-at-risk the tools and resources they need to succeed. (Courtesy: JAFI)
Each trustee serves as role model and "coach" for a group of 10-20 children. (Courtesy: JAFI)
Youth Futures helps over 6,000 children in 32 locations across Israel. (Courtesy: JAFI)