Chino is a social worker, and has been at Educational Alliance for 12 years. She runs the Youth Program, and has some great advice today on the importance of perseverance, exposing your kids to opportunities that will build their self esteem and skills, as well as how much you can really shape peer groups, and exposure to mentors that can shape your children's life.
Chino. She is a licensed clinical social worker for Educational Alliance, a non-profit organization on the lower east side of Manhattan and has been in existence for over 125 years. It is an organization that is truly dedicated and focused on developing the community. Presently, Educational Alliance is focused on the full continuum of the lifespan, from neonatal all the way to aging adults. Chino's focused area is largely on youth - young people between the grades of kindergarten all the way to the point in which they are in college.
Educational Alliance. Their approach is largely a psych ecological approach to youth development. It partners with schools within the community and provides services within the community center. Its vision is to unleash the potential of every child that they have access to.
"We know that all individuals, especially young people have such potential and we really want to make sure we can create an environment that will allow them to thrive."
It aims to ensure that young people have the skill sets so they have an understanding of their self-awareness,as well as recognizing and having an understanding of their competencies. In that way, they can grow and build upon their competencies such as their ability to dialogue with their peers, their ability to advocate on their behalf, and their ability to negotiate conversations or their perspective and viewpoints. The organization wants the youth to feel safe in their own body and have an understanding of what may be going on for them as a human being. The assistance it provides varies depending on the age range. Chino helps a younger child regulate himself and connect more with his emotions so he can understand how to utilize the information he's getting from his body to allow him to engage in learning with his peers in ways that are most productive for the child and the community.
Shaping the youth for the future. Educational Alliance brings in learning opportunities that are truly immersive and dynamic. With its vision of unleashing the potential of every young person, it creates an environment that is safe and nurturing and also gives the young people opportunities to practice skills and talents that they may not have realized that they've had otherwise. It focuses on activities that are within arts and culture, health and wellness, and civic engagement and leadership. It aims to help the youth understand that there's so much that happens to make a final product - So it creates an opportunity for a young person to experience from the initial phase of creating something all the way to creating something that can be presented to others and have an authentic audience.
The other key thing that it does is engaging people and giving them practice in 21st-century learning skills. It realizes that the jobs in 2025 and 2030 will look different from the jobs of today so Educational Alliance wants every young person to be fully prepared for that. It focuses a lot on building assets and skills to prepare our young people for college and career.
One way to expose young people is through workshops and letting people test out workshops. Another strategy is to bring in speakers that have content expertise in different core areas.
"Often times, it is really just exposing young people that can create a spark. So we want to create a spark and through those sparks, identify what their interest areas are."
Community-center learning. Educational Alliance works with over 50,000 individuals in New York City and it recognizes that everyone has varying needs and priorities. So it creates spaces and hubs within the community where individuals can come in and engage in a whole suite of services within their pillars. This allows the youth to catapult into anything of interest or allow them to explore in an immersive experience. The organization tries to establish an environment that allows young people to have practice in order to create authentic opportunities for growth and dynamic experiences so people can become experts in their areas of interest.
Advice to parents. Chino is a mom of 2 kids; a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old. She states that a parent's first priority is her child so she tries to create an environment where her child will thrive, can unleash potential, recognize assets, and feel safe and comforted. So she recommends parents to assess their community and assess what opportunities exist within their community, connect with community leaders and ask questions, talk to school teachers, create an alliance of parents if they feel like the resources don't exist within the community, and engage with other parents.
"We, as parents, our role is always being an advocate for our child. Each child is different and each child requires different needs. We know that best. It is our job to advocate. Never feel bad or scared to advocate on behalf of your child."
Chino shares that her best strategy is to always ask. She asks the principal, the custodians, and the city council members because they know where the resources are within the community. She also shares that she loves Google because it helps her find more resources that could support her in providing more opportunities to young people. She believes that when our children have access to opportunities where they can thrive, they get inspired and start to feel more competent and confident in themselves. Getting them involved in activities allowing them to have opportunities to explore interests that they are both passionate about and where they feel like they're excelling is helpful.
"The other key thing is, never underestimate the power of good peer groups. Peer groups are huge social environments that create social norms for our young people. Having our children join peer groups allow them to nurture their ability and skill sets."
Personal experience. Chino grew up in south central Los Angeles. Her parents were immigrants but they had access to opportunities that allowed them to create a nurturing environment for them. Though she grew up in poverty, she was surrounded by her parents and other caring adults who loved them so much. Research shows that, aside from parents, the other significant objects in shaping a young person's life are mentors and having other caring adults who care about them. She believes that was a significant force that has allowed her to contribute to the community in the way that she has.
"My message for youth today would be to always persevere. Life will not be easy. Sometimes it will be great and sometimes it will feel easy and at those points, I think that would be great for us to just stop and appreciate the good things. When it is difficult and when we fail, we will always fail and it is okay to fail. And when we do, those are some great opportunities for us to learn and grow. It is only through some of the toughest situations that we experience in our lives that we can grow and develop. Never allow a tough thing to get in your way of succeeding. Never allow a "no" to stop you. If you are really passionate about something, stay focused and persevere, and never let anything stop you. Find a path for yourself and engage with other people who may also be passionate about that or who care about you enough to connect you along a path to get you closer to where you want to be. Never underestimate your capacity. You are more amazing than you may ever realize."
How to learn more about Chino.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/chino.okonkwo?ref=br_rs