Most Viewed Stories
Leadership program benefits YPIC youths and children
Editor's Note: The Yuma Sun is spotlighting six of several summer youth projects developed by YPIC and paid for with stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This article is the second in this series.
For 16-year-old Jameka Grayson, planning and running entertaining activities for 8-year-olds is no sweat.
Grayson is a participant in the Recreational Leadership Project, one of the Yuma Private Industry Council's summer youth projects. YPIC has trained youths from the community in leadership and how to work with children from low-income families.
Elizabeth Arredondo, who has taught kindergarten and first grade, instructs the youths and oversees the project.
"They deal with everything. We even let them handle behavior issues on their own. We are just here to guide them," said Arredondo.
YPIC's summer youth projects are part of a special summer program made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The program is open to young people ages 14 to 24, who gain job skills and practical experience while earning minimum wage. All participants come from low-income families, as stipulated by the government.
More than 800 young people are currently involved with the program, working either in local businesses or on one of YPIC's special projects. Each participant is required to attend a two-week work readiness class, specified to his or her individual program.
Aside from the Recreational Leadership Project, there are six other projects taking place in Yuma: the Dance Project, the Culinary Arts Project, the Green Development Project, the Green Education Project, the Mural Project and the Career Development Project.
Participants in the Recreational Leadership Project are divided into five groups. Each group is assigned to about six children from the Vince Nelson Housing Project. The children range in age from 6 to 12 and are grouped with their peers.
YPIC's youth participants spend most of their time planning activities for the children. They come up with creative new ways to entertain children, plan the best ways to implement the activities and then carry them out.
"They've done everything from sports, arts and music to making ice cream," said Arredondo.
The program is a welcome escape for the young children who attend, she said.
"Normally, these kids would be home alone because their parents work all day. They're very very excited. When it's time to go home, they don't want to go."
Over the course of the project, the YPIC participants have faced some stressful challenges. Arredondo said it was difficult for them to learn how to handle young children at first, especially when behavior is an issue.
"You have to have a lot of patience to deal with the kids. You have to have a lot of patience to deal with any humans," said Grayson, who is a student at Kofa High School.
But she said she has learned to deal with and even appreciate the students in her group.
"Kids aren't as bad as you think. These kids just want to get out."
Arredondo said the greatest thing about the program is not just seeing the YPIC youth develop leadership skills, but seeing happy faces on the younger children as well.
"They come not only to get food and enjoy the activities, but they come for the company. Just to have company and someone that's interested in them, it means a lot."
Participants in the Recreational Leadership Project held an art show for parents on July 30.