Neu-Life staff led students through a highly unpredictable year – full of anxiety, restrictions, and uncertainty. The Youth Work Innovation Center, Milwaukee High School of the Arts, and the Neu-Life Safe Place at Brown Street Academy truly became a lifesaver for parents with little to no options for their children during an unprecedented (and unexpected), fully remote school year. Our year looked tremendously different as we transitioned from an after-school program to full-time childcare for students, providing both supervision and academic support. We immediately adapted to help support our community (families and youth) in order to put our students first. Staff worked hard to organize classrooms full of children on completely different schedules, grades, and learning levels. Yet, we faced this challenge with grace and resilience. Neu-Life staff is undeniably devoted to our youth and provided stability during crisis. This leadership took both empathy and consistency and empathy – it wasn’t easy but we never gave up. We were truly determined to create an environment for every student succeed and every staff to feel supported. Here’s what has been happening in spring programming:
Teen Outreach Program (TOP) - Youth completed are wide variety of community service projects.
Collected over $200 worth of infant care items to donate to Ronald McDonald House.
Created care cards for older adults at our partner agency, Residential Living Services.
Completed a community clean-up for Earth Day.
Pulled weeds and cleared gardens at our 12th and Cherry community garden.
Interviewed young Black Leaders in Milwaukee as part of our Black History Month campaign
Learned, played and gave back with Freerice, an educational trivia game that teaches while making a difference for people around the world. Every question answered correctly in the game triggers a financial payment to the World Food Programme to support its work saving and changing lives around the world.
Oral Historian Project - In collaboration with University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee School of Engineering, youth interviewed community elders (Evelyn Terry, Larry Adams, and Pastor Robbins) from the Lindsay Heights neighborhood and created art books. The youth learned about the elders’ lives, as well as what kind of impact they have had with their surroundings. From there, we created three different art projects based off our interviewees that used their ideas and thought about the ways that this impacted our lives. Check out the full art projects.
Shoe Lamp Project - Our youth were able to collaborate with independent artist Emmett Gross on special metal work projects. They learned metalworking skills and had lots of fun.
Young Adults Class – Youth worked on skills from drivers’ education, financial savings, active listening and communication, health and hygiene, goals and dreams, and resume building. During the savings lesson, each of the youth found 3 new ways they could save money. Two weeks later, one of the students, Brandon, said he started saving his Neu-Life checks. In the driver’s education prep, the majority of the class felt they were getting better at understanding driving. Three of the students even said they felt ready to take the test. And in the active listening class, youth were able to double their performance on listening exercises.
Art - Youth worked at three skill levels:
Beginner: "Teaching Art": Worked on embracing mistakes, trying their best and knowing it's not a competition, finding the value of taking their time and not rushing their artwork, pushing themselves to try different art mediums, and stepping out of their comfort zones.
Intermediate: Art Piece Projects): Worked on new art pieces to hang at YWIC.
Advanced: Mural Art: Completed the top half of the wall and completed half the bottom part of the wall. Youth are now challenging themselves to think more outside the box, advance their technical skills, and work independently with confidence.
Farmfork - Youth learned how to cook from home and developed knife and measuring skills. They also accomplished creating cooking tutorials and learned critiquing skills while review other students’ videos.
Speak up – Youth learned skills necessary to express themselves clearly and with confidence. A Neu-Life middle schooler named Kmanuel is an excellent example of growth in the program. Kmanuel started the program very shy and didn’t speak or participate much. Activities focused on practicing communication, improving confidence, and developing leadership skills gave youth like Kmanuel the opportunity to conquer their shyness. By the end of the class, Kmanuel was taking initiative, speaking up confidently and proactively working with others.
Awareness Initiatives & Events - High school youth planned awareness initiatives for a variety of topics, such as Black history month, World AIDS day, monthly spirit weeks, the youth summit, and community clean up.
Book Club - High school youth completed short stories from the book Friday Black, including assessments and new vocabulary words. Middle school youth completed short stories from the book Making the Most of Your Life, which included topics such as not being afraid to ask for help with words they don't know, encouraging each other when they stumble over words, getting better at reading aloud, and staying engaged and focused on.
Middle School Workforce - We were able to help middle schooler workers transition into professional roles by learning new skills like resume building, dress code, communication and leadership. Their final projects included creating presentations to secure their spot in the summer program. This class will be ongoing for middle school workers to put the skills they learned into practice during the summer.