1. What would you name the autobiography of your life?
“Is this real life?”
2. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Everything, I love to learn!
3. If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
Invest half and travel
4. When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?
5. If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?
6. What was the last experience that made you a stronger person?
7. What is something you learned at Neu-Life in the last week?
I learned the terms “Port and Starboard.
8. What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
Riding my bicycle or hiking.
9. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
10. If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
There are too many people to choose.
11. Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad but it turned out to be for the best?
I’ve learned something from every misstep I’ve taken.
12. At what age did you become an adult?
47 (I’m 26)
13. What three traits define you?
Empathy, organization & pensive.
14. Ten years ago, who did you think you would be now?
I thought I would be married and a mom.
15. What’s the coolest (or most important) trend you see today with youth?
That they love themselves.
16. What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?
I would probably be WWOOFing.
17. What advice do you have for kids who are struggling in school?
Your teachers want to help you, ask them for help.
18. What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?
You don’t have anything to prove to anyone!
19. How do you define success?
If I am happy and proud.
20. What is your favorite thing about working at Neulife?
Coming back after the weekend and seeing the young people smile.
On July 22nd, five teens and staff from Neu-Life led a group of students from other sites on a tour of black-owned businesses in Milwaukee. The route, itinerary and information for the experience was developed throughout spring and summer by youth tour leaders at the YWIC, with support from experienced tour guide, Adam Carr. They used what they knew as a foundation and built upon it through experiences, interviews and research — even the theme for the tour was generated during a field trip.
The final tour route includes stops at Alice’s Garden, Bronzeville Collective MKE, Sherman Phoenix and an original interactive activity that illustrates cooperative economics. Moving forward, we’re hoping to deliver the tour to more youth, as well as adult groups. Carr has been in conversation with Cross Lutheran about the potential of adapting the tour for their senior group, which would also include opportunities for intergenerational dialogue.
An aspirational goal is turning the tour into a small business, potentially attached to other developments/organizations in the neighborhood. This could be a source of income for Neu-Life youth, as well as an authentic, deep-rooted way for interested folks to learn about the neighborhood
“Working with Neu-Life youth and young adults was a wonderful experience," says Carr. "The whole process was propelled by their curiosity and insights, which pushed me to think deeper and engage with questions that pushed my limits." During the tour, Carr said exactly zero words, allowing the youth to lead the entire tour. "They rose to the occasion and offered a beautiful learning experience within their own community."
Physical activity is critical for youth to develop positive behaviors and grow into self-sufficient adults. That is why Wednesdays at Neu-Life are WELLNESS Wednesdays, and feature activities that move the body, provide opportunities for problem-solving, teamwork, and improve the overall wellbeing of our kids. We're fortunate to be located so near to Johnsons Park, one of the few public green spaces in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood, and are happy to say that the park gets used every week by our kids!
Farmfork’s production and teaching gardens serve to educate our kids as well as provide home-grown produce for the culinary activities of the program. Spring through fall, outdoor gardening activities combine overlapping themes of cultivating the garden, the self and the community, while also connecting to core science, social studies, math, and language arts where appropriate.
The positive impact of youth gardening programs is well documented. For example, this study highlighted how community gardening led to both increased know-how and a greater belief in one’s own ability to perform a task. (Grier, 2014). And this gardening program in Los Angeles improved willingness to eat fruits and vegetables in Latino youth (Gatto, Ventura, Cook, Gyllenhammer, & Davis, 2012).
Neu-life has been using gardening as a way to connect connect kids to nature and improve their physical health for over 15 years. They learn important life lessons through the responsibility and hard work required to keep the garden thriving. Because our gardens are located in community spaces, our gardening program often creates opportunites to explore history, cultural heritage, and the broader social determinants of health impacting our neighbors. Our teaching garden located in Alice's Garden, for example, creates a window into learning about Wisconsin’s Underground Railroad.
You can read more about Neu-Life's relationship with Alice's Garden here.
A significant portion of Farmfork's funding comes directly from individuals in our community! Your support each year is important to growing the program. Giving to Farmfork is a direct way for you to support urban gardening and it's many benefits to the community. In 2018 alone, over 1,000 kids participated in Farmfork.
Farmfork Through the Years
For two weeks each August, Neu-Life teens at the Youth Work Innovation Center (YWIC) are in high demand in Milwaukee’s near north-side neighborhood of Lindsay Heights. During Pay it Foward week, teens volunteer their time to beautify public spaces and make light repairs to homes of residents. The teens use collaborative decision making to choose which projects they’ll undertake and how the projects will be completed. For Neu-Life, the goal of Pay It Forward is not just to beautify the neighborhood, but also to build relationships with neighbors, and those releationships in turn reduce crime and vandalism.
Some of those residents are elderly, others simply lack the expertise to carry out the projects, but everyone touched by Pay it Foward benefits from a helping hand and and connecting with someone who cares, including the teens who are doing the work.
The notion of Pay it Foward has been known to set off a chain reaction or pyramid of goodwill. Specifically for youth, scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found in 2018, that teens engaged in civic activities were more likely than non-engaged peers to attain higher income and education levels as adults. For Neu-Life teens, Pay it Foward introduces the concept of “greater good” at a time in their life when the ability to take on new responsibilities - and freedoms - can have a critical effect on their future. Neu-Life teens gain the pride of knowing that their work is contributing to the greater good and develop job and life skills in the process.
*Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. (2018, January 23). Civic engagement can help teens thrive later in life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180123101911.htm
See Pay It Forward Through the Years
You may remember back in 2014 when JaQuawn Seals, Darrius Stephenson and Trayshawn Brown won a grant from Lead2Change to establish a bicycle program for youth at Neu-Life. The program gave Neu-Life youth a weeklong bike class, over 60 bikes, helmets, locks and a custom-designed bike map of the Lindsay Heights neighborhood. (Read more about it here).
From bike riding to bike building. Interest in bikes has taken many shapes over the years: bikes as transportation, bikes as excercise, and most recently...bikes as mobile pop-up! This summer, Neu-Life teens at the Youth Work Innovation Center (YWIC) completed an ice cream bike, a project that led them through the process of designing and building a bike from the ground up. Neu-Life's first bike-build project was a food demonstration bike. Beneath the surface of our bike-build projects, soft skills like verbal communication, collaboration, planning for success, social awareness, growth mindset and problem solving are essential to taking the project from idea to completion.
Partnership with All Hands Boatworks. Neu-Life teens had the exciting opportunity this summer to work with All Hands Boatworks to build their very own boat. Through boat building, All Hands Boatworks aims to build character, career opportunities, and hope in Milwaukee’s urban youth. For Neu-Life teens, this unique experiential learning project taught technical skills like power and hand tool use, safety and accuracy. We’re very excited to have reached the recognition phase of this project. Teens launched their boat and got to see their hard work celebrated by the community and each other.
Here at Neu-life, we know that a bike isn’t just a bike and a boat isn’t just a boat. To be a part of a team that builds something completely from scratch is incredibly rewarding and an opportunity that many kids might never have. But it’s also difficult and frustrating and full of challenges. Our build projects give youth the chance to overcome barriers and learn what they are capable of!
Want to support our work? You can easily make a donation that creates opportunities for Neu-Life youth here on our website.
Transitioning to adulthood and the workforce can be a very difficult time for teens. To make matters worse, high school alone rarely provides the necessary skills to enter the workplace. Traditional career fairs for youth are oftened geared toward matching local employers with student job seekers. With *less than half the working-age adults in zipcode 53206 (between the ages of 25 and 54) having full-time jobs in 2017 (compared to 69 percent city-wide), that's certainly a necessary and admirable action. But here at Neu-Life, the emphasis instead is on exposing youth to as many career paths as possible - and to encourage them to think big when it comes to their future.
To do this, each year we invite a group of professionals to present on their job, what they love about it, how they chose it, and give a general understanding of the pathway of how to get there. These presentations are a powerful way to inspire and motivate children and teens to stay on the path to either college or post-highschool job training. Curating a panel of career fair presenters is no easy task, as they must be both knowledgeable in their field and capable of connecting with the kids in a mentor-like, entertaining way. Neu-Life has a reputation for creating a family-like environment where youth can really blossom and grow, and the Annual Career Fair is no exception.
Neu-Life also strives to represent sectors that are projected for growth in the coming years, like IT, the trades, or health care, for example. “Jobs in health care are a promising option for our kids who want to try something out prior to going to college,” says Tracy Hrajnoha, Neu-life’s Director of Strategy and Innovation. “A four-year degree is no longer the only pathway to a rewarding and lucrative career.”
Each youth receives a backpack full of school supplies donated by partners like Zonta Club of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Backpack Brigade, as well as generous individuals who want to make sure that none of the Neu-Life youth are starting school without the items they need. To make it easier to support the Career Fair from any location, Neu-Life uses a Target Registry where donors can choose to ship the item or pick it up in-store themselves. You don't have to wait until next fall if you want to support our Career Fair! We take backpack donations year round and all monetary donations through our website allow you to choose what YOU want to support.
*Levine, Marc V., "Milwaukee 53206: The Anatomy of Concentrated Disadvantage in an Inner City Neighborhood, 2000-2017" (2019). Center for Economic Development Publications. 48.
Neu-Life's West African dance classes are taught by Ms. Madeline, and incorporate African dances that date back many centuries. While sharing the history, techniques, and discipline for performance is taught, performing is optional and requires an audition.
Nonetheless, in this aerobic and fun dance class all are welcome! Why?! Because we just want to have fun! Also youth will have the opportunity to choreograph, teach, and perform a dance that relates to whatever African dance is being taught at the time (however, there are exceptions to the rule - so see Ms. Madeline if there are any questions).
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2019 CAREER FAIR
Transitioning to adulthood and the workforce can be a very difficult time for teens. They need to discover their professional interests and understand what skills they already have or need to develop, but may also have limited experience to draw on in making those decisions. To make matters worse, high school alone rarely provides the necessary skills to enter the work place.
Here at Neu-Life, our after-school and summer programs are designed to provide an uninterrupted path of engagement for kids, offering exposure to a variety of careers and developing the soft skills needed to be successful in today’s workplace. And with 55% of our staff being Neu-Life alum, youth have the opportunity to develop emotional bonds with leaders whose background reflects their own, who have life experience and can provide support and guidance to help them succeed in life and meet their goals.
Each year at our Annual Career Fair, we expose kids to as many family-sustaining careers as possible so that they can dream big about their future and understand the pathway of how to get there. We believe that Career Fair is a powerful way to motivate and inspire kids to stay on the path to college or job training.
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We’d like to thank the following individuals for sharing their career with Neu-Life youth at the 2019 Annual Career Fair:
Shawn Harris - School Counselor, Verona Area School District
Alfonzon Watkins - Therapist, MSE, CPC
Elmer Moore - Owner, Milwaukee Denim
Brendan Fleming - Chef/Staff Accountant, Aramark
Carols Velazquez-Sanchez - Fire Fighter, Milwaukee Fire Department
Maria Bellman - Solution Delivery Manager, LPI
Danielle Hunter - Nurse, Froedert Trauma Unit
Joni Reese - IT Application Delivery Manager, LPI
Shavonda Sisson - Director of Alumni Relations, Public Allies
Stella Nathan - Community Outreach Advocate, Girl Scouts of Wisconsin
through sewing and textile arts.
For teens, fashion is an important means of expression to their peers and the rest of the world about who they are and what's important to them. Neu-Life runs a Fashion Club as an after-school program at High School of the Arts where they can take that self expression into their own hands through sewing, tie dye, jewelry making and more.Neu-Life sat down with Fashion Club Coordinator, Darla Honeycutt to talk about where the idea for Fashion Club came from, what the kids get out of club participation, and her advice for creating awesome, youth-driven programming.
Q & A
NL: What is Fashion Club?
DH: An arts and fashion workshop geared towards Milwaukee’s youth.
Where did the idea for Fashion Club come from?
DH: From the first workshop I knew that young people had an interest in creating art and fashion. The way their faces lit up made me want to bring Fashion Club to more youth right away.
What does a typical day of activities look like at Fashion Club?
DH: A typical day is planned prior to the actual workshop. Our projects could range from Denim Distressing to Sewing or Tie Dying clothing & accessories. Fashion Club also offers private sewing lessons for youth.
What do participants learn in Fashion Club?
DH: Not only do the fashionistas of the Club learn to design but they walk away feeling more confident and eager to create more. Ironing and hand sewing are a couple more skills that the participants walk away with.
What motivates you to do this kind of work?
DH: When I was a teenager, this program would have changed my life. My aim is to provide an outlet for youth to create and be praised for their work and effort. They don’t get that often enough.
Do you have any advice for others on how to create meaningful and relevant youth programming?
DH: My advice is simple. Be who you needed when you were younger... Love, Miss Darla