Youth Development

Mass Service Alliance Grant for Latinx Mentor Recruitment

Posted in In the News, Mentoring, Uncategorized, Youth Development on January 20th, 2021 with No Comments

Family Services is pleased to announce that it has received a grant of $10,000 from the Massachusetts Service Alliance to recruit at Latinx bilingual volunteers as mentors for it’s Big Friends Little Friends mentoring program.

Family Services’ Big Friends Little Friends program supports over 100 matches between volunteer mentors and youth , the majority of which come from Latinx  families from Lawrence and surrounding communities. Dr. Dolores C Calaf, EdD, Volunteer Coordinator for the program, has been working with a group of Latinx volunteers who have been helping with a new promotion and marketing campaign in Spanish. The campaign consists of five strategies: 1) identify community stakeholders, 2) conduct community forums to understand the needs of Latinx youth, 3) develop an outreach work plan to engage adult Latinx mentors, 4) develop outreach materials and strategies in Spanish, 5) assess effectiveness of outreach strategies and modify activities as needed. The working committee members represent different areas of services including local business owners, educational, social services, and healthcare professionals as well as two state legislators.

“We are so pleased to be partnering with the Massachusetts Service Alliance to enhance our ability to match youth in our community with mentors who share their language and cultural identity,” said Aida Castro, Director of Community Support Services. “And we’re thrilled that so many volunteers have joined us to get this initiative off the ground, especially during this difficult time”, concluded her.

Family Services is a leading provider of comprehensive social services located in Lawrence, MA.  The agency is committed to helping children and families build a better life by offering services in youth development, parent education and mental health and wellness. Rooted in compassion and respect for the diverse population it serves, Family Services helps over 7,000 people from throughout the Merrimack Valley each year.  All services are based upon hope and the possibility that with support, individuals can thrive within their family, school, workplace, and community. 

For more information or if you are interested in become a Latinx bilingual mentor, contact Dr. Dolores Calaf at 978-314-3125 or email her at [email protected]

Social and Emotional Fitness all Summer Long

Posted in Youth Development on July 12th, 2018 with No Comments

No Summer Recess for ARISE

The smallest and simplest of decisions can have tremendous life consequences, and that reality fuels the ongoing social and emotional fitness programming offered through Family Services’ ARISE series.  The summer months are no exception, with a group of 10 – 12 teens opting in so that they can stay on top of such wise decision making.  “With so many other things to do in summertime, I LOVE that the room is full and that these kids continue to join us for this programming,” beams Family Services’ PREP Program Coordinator Diana Cortes.  As during the academic year, the group meets to heighten their knowledge around conflict resolution, the benefits of positive body language, anger and time management, effective negotiation skills and a host of other current challenges facing teens today.  No summer recess for this Monday – Friday crew!

“Life skills are not hereditary; they must be taught. With this in mind, we dedicate ourselves to building social and emotional fitness in youth and young adults,” so reads the mission statement of Edmund and Susan Benson, the individuals who in 1986 created the ARISE Foundation.  Their wide-ranging curriculum stays true to that core of taking personal responsibility for maintaining safety and well being and contains interactive, attention grabbing activities that enable participants to easily grasp and retain each learning experience.  One such example of the curriculum in action (here in summer at Family Services) involved weaving in Origami exercises around some best practices for harnessing and managing anger.  The goal of the ancient Japanese art of Origami paper folding is to transform a flat square sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through an array of folding techniques.  It requires patience, and presence (and has for centuries been demonstrated to enhance focus), thus serving as a fitting tie in to the curriculum’s strategies for decompressing.

The full day ARISE classroom sessions also include a group lunch and downtime for playing board games and conversation.  Field Trips are also threaded into each week’s learning.  “Here, they get to be kids,” emphasizes Ms. Cortes.  “We have so much material to cover, and once that is done we always give them some time to get together, to just hang out.”  What is noticeable after the day’s lessons conclude? A new sense of well-being and motivation emanated from rising 7th grader Yaneliz who has plans to one day become a veterinarian.  “Today, we were talking about anger. You have to learn to control it,” shares Yaneliz, a regular ARISE participant.  “One of the ways you can do so is by putting in your earbuds and listening to music,” says she with a smile.  “I learned that today.”

Family Services of the Merrimack Valley believes that every young person, regardless of their circumstances or history, has tremendous potential to follow their roadmap and achieve great things. Family Services’ Youth Development Programs help individuals such as Yaneliz achieve their full potential by helping them harness their inherent strengths and abilities.  To learn more about ARISE and our Youth Development programming, please visit…