United Way of Northern New Mexico

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Youth Development Sparks Local Collaboration, Inspires Leadership


From left to right: Jeremy Varela, United Way, Bernadette Lauritzen, LAMS/40 Developmental Assets, Kristy Ortega, United Way, Joanne Gilispie, LAPS Foundation, Ellen Ben-Naim, JJAB, Jonathan Lathrop, LAHS, Robyn Collom, LAHS, Carter Payne, LAHS, Sylvan Argo, YMCA Teen Center.

“Fun!” “Colorful!” “Interesting!” This is what Los Alamos High School students are saying about a new program premiering the 2014-2015 school year. The selecting of this program started its journey when United Way of Northern New Mexico’s Youth Team was interested in reinvesting the money they raised to help current and future students.  Through numerous meetings and conversations with people in the community United Way was directed to The Boomerang Project by Dr. Marvel Harrison.    This lead to the convening of organizations interested in providing peer to peer support services for our students. The Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, LAPS Foundation, YMCA Teen Center, LAHS, LAMS, and United Way of Northern New Mexico came together to begin implementation of Link Crews and WEB (Where Everybody Belongs)  Crews in Los Alamos  High School and Middle School. At the high school level, this peer to peer mentorship program partners incoming freshmen with two upper classman to not only welcome them to the school, but to help them succeed through their tenure at LAHS.  At the middle school, incoming seventh graders will be welcomed and mentored by eight graders.  The training these crews receive will be invaluable as they grow up to be adults. “I’m incredibly excited for our incoming freshman.” said Carter Payne, Assistant Principle at Los Alamos High School. “I maybe even more excited for the leadership experience the students are getting and their chance to leave a lasting culture at our school.”

In May of 2014, Robyn Collom (LAHS), Bernadette Lauritzen (LAMS), and Jonathan Lathrop (LAHS), attended a training to lay the foundation of the program in Los Alamos.  “The best professional development training I’ve ever attended.” says Jonathan Lathrop, who has taught for 17 years “I am absolutely enthused and so confident that this will enhance the positive culture at LAHS.”

A variety of students were approached about being the initial Link Crews and WEB Crews leaders.  60 students from the high school and 47 students from the middle school signed up within a couple of weeks of learning about the program.  The students were given a glimpse of what they will be a part of when they had their initial meetings the last week of school.  “Before the meeting started, some students were quiet, stern, and keeping to themselves.” said Jeremy Varela, from United Way “By the end of the meeting they were all smiling and giggling with the friends they just made.”  In the Fall of 2014, incoming freshmen and 7th graders were treated to an orientation unlike any ever seen in Los Alamos. Varela continues, “What better way to kick off a new school year than making new friends?”

“The program aligns with the 40 Developmental Assets and that is one of the reasons it will be successful.” said Bernadette Lauritzen, LAMS Prevention Specialist “Students helping students succeed has the ability to change the culture in schools.”

The YMCA Teen Center has offered the space given the program the ability to do activities and meetings year-round.

“Over the past 11 years of teaching, this program was life changing.” says Robyn Collom, “I am thrilled to use the tools I learned, share the enthusiasm and energy this program has sparked in me.  It is exciting to build on the positive momentum the high school is already on.”

Visit www.BoomerangProject.com  for more information about the program. Contact United Way of Northern New Mexico if you have questions specific to the program in Los Alamos  505.662.0800

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