At the very core of UCAN is youth development. It’s the underlying constant within each program, and of the tools used to support their development, mentoring remains one of the strongest and most effective.
“Mentor” can mean someone who you look up to or someone you aspire to be. It can be someone who pushes you or someone who supports you whether a family member or a colleague.
But for two youth at UCAN, mentor means someone who has changed their lives.
Seantayvia Byrd came to UCAN two years ago through the Violence Intervention and Prevention Services program. Now she is a senior in high school and looking forward to her future with the support of her Youth Development Coach Nadia Hill.
“I know that she cares – for real,” says Seantayvia of Nadia.
As Seantayvia navigates her last year of school, she’s looked to Nadia for help in making decisions about her future. Though she hasn’t applied to college yet, she plans to attend, and when the time comes, Nadia will be there to assist her in the application process and beyond. Her goal: become a psychologist.
Yasmine Kirkwood, another UCAN youth, shares Seantayvia’s enthusiasm for psychology. She cites her therapist as her mentor.
“I just love her,” Yasmine says. “She gave me more confidence; she helped me come out of my shell. She’s my inspiration. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
Because of the support and guidance Yasmine received from her therapist after her father died, she knew this is what she’s meant to do: help people like her. “Making other people feel good, it helps me.”
“It’s good to have a person like that outside of your family,” Seantayvia adds.
Nadia Hill is herself a mentee having spent most of her life in North Lawndale. From a young age, she was active in after school programs such as the Boys and Girls Club.
“[My mother] was very intentional,” she says, “to make sure I was very involved with community,” and that connection is a reason she became a youth development coach.
“It doesn’t matter who I work with,” says Nadia. “I want them to see that they can be self-sufficient.”