The selflessness of others has blessed LUCY’s youth and staff in immeasurable ways this year! Just last month, in October, our board hosted a 300-person wine tasting and art auction event to benefit LUCY. The event was a HUGE success and raised funds to support programming and college prep & scholarships, but the most important outcome was that it exposed hundreds of new faces to our incredible youth and the work we’re doing with them, each and every day.
Our focus this year has shifted from only helping the youth get into college to ensuring that they stay in school once admitted; their primary challenge with this continues to be financial. Our graduates are extremely successful and our support has so much to do with that. Just this past spring two “LUCY grads” graduated from college, one was hired for an engineering job in South Jersey, and the other began her Masters in Social Work. Another graduate completed his Associate’s degree in the Honors program at Camden County College and was accepted to UPenn to obtain his Bachelor’s. A fourth graduate asked me to write a recommendation for him so that he could put his Mechanical Engineering degree to use by serving our country in the Air Force. Our freshmen always update us too!
Yader, 19 (Fairfield University): “Good news: I love college soooo much and have made incredible friends already. Bad news: I tore my ACL, MCL and meniscus in our Rugby match against UMass. It’s fine though… I’m in good spirits and will be back on the field in 9-12 months!”
Cynthia, 19 (Scranton University): “I’m always doing something whether it’s homework, club meetings, volunteering, attending events, meeting new people and making new friends, and eating! Even though I have a lot of work and stressful days, I know this is where I belong!”
We’re also having a significant impact on youth that may not be on a college track. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I have a special place in my heart for the most challenging youth. Our “rule breakers” often come to us angry, using offensive language, and opposed to any help or support that LUCY has to offer. The good news is that it never stays that way!
One of these youth, Ben, arrived here at LUCY last fall. The first few months were pretty unbearable for the staff. Ben would talk back to everyone, put down other youth, swear often, and show up an hour late to every program. He would whisper over speakers and mock the youth and adults by talking in his “Hillary Clinton” voice. There were times when Ben would even lay on the floor when all the youth were in seats or walk out of programs before they ended, in anger.
Then something beautiful began to happen. We took notice of a special talent that Ben had–rapping. We’d catch him in “rap battles” in the parking lot before and after programs and realized that he was using this form of art to process his personal struggles and the violence and suffering he witnessed in the city. Months later an opportunity arose for us to register a team in the local Louder Than A Bomb spoken word competition at Rutgers-Camden. As we chose our team, we were hesitant to ask him to take part. Eventually he was approached and began to work well with the other youth, even to the point of encouraging them. After months of practicing, LUCY’s team arrived on competition day nervous and uncertain. Ben built his teammates up and was the only competitor to score all 10s from the judges’ panel! The more we encouraged his creativity, the more he flourished. Ben is now a positive and integral part of our family!
Fast forward to last week, when Dan interviewed youth about gratitude for Giving Tuesday videos. I sat working in my office but could overhear Ben answering each question thoughtfully. I was taken aback when he was asked, “What would you like to say to anyone who has supported LUCY?” Upon hearing his response a huge smile came across my face. “Thank y’all. Y’all are very helpful to me and a lot of the youth that go to this program and even though y’all may not see, like physically see how good ya’ll doing, y’all doing above and beyond for us. Thank you. Love y’all!” I couldn’t have said it better myself!
With your help and support, we’re changing lives and lives are changing us. Please continue to give in whatever way you’re able!
This car magnet is for you to proudly show your support for LUCY as you drive around your community each day!
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
Kristin Prinn, MSW, LCSW