On January 5, St. Stephen’s Youth Programs hosted its annual winter alumni gathering. The event has two goals: to create a space for graduates of SSYP who have gone off to college or careers to reconnect with each other and to offer those graduates continuing support as they take these next steps in their lives. The event has also become a time for our current teens, the Counselors-in-Training and Organizers working for SSYP, to meet and learn from our alums.
Last year, the winter event included a panel of graduates who talked about their experiences following high school and alumni shared advice with teens about how to overcome a variety of obstacles. This year, the event had three different parts; all were designed to provide teens and alumni with resources of support toward long-term success.
First, our currently employed teen staff met with Gabe Baldwin, a teacher of mindfulness techniques. This was the initial session in a series of workshops promoting mindfulness, emotional regulation, and active listening. Through this series, teens will build the skills to take care of themselves as they navigate the challenges that present themselves in both high school and beyond.
At the same time teens were practicing mindfulness, graduates were talking about the growing alumni program SSYP is rolling out this spring. In addition to ongoing support for FAFSA renewals, college transfer applications, and scholarship forms, SSYP is launching a new professional networking program. This network will help connect our alumni with people who are working in the fields our graduates are interested in pursuing. Following this announcement, alumni talked with each other, sharing stories and resources. It was wonderful to hear young adults speaking about their successes in a wide range of experiences and offering strategies and tips for overcoming the challenges they have faced. They learned from one another and gave feedback to SSYP about additional ways we might offer support.
Then, the teens and alum joined together, forming small groups to foster discussions of the hopes for and fears about life after twelfth grade. It was moving to witness the openness of both groups: the teens were willing to learn and alumni were sharing their experiences with honesty and wisdom. The event reaffirmed how committed our teens and alums are to SSYP and each other. There was that deep feeling of community and family that is so often mentioned as a key quality of SSYP. We look forward to seeing what develops next!
SSYP is recruiting current professionals from different fields to be part of that support network for alum. If you are willing to meet with students during the spring to talk about your job and answer questions, please contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory, Sr. Manager of College Access & Success