16 Feb Youth Futures: Strengthening Participants and Families
Maya* has been working with Yael*, a ninth-grader from Afula, for two years as her Youth Futures mentor. Yael relocated to the city with her mom and sister after her parents divorced; her father lives in another city and Yael would typically see him on the weekends. She started participating in the Youth Futures program after being identified as an at-risk child by her school and local social services.
When Maya began working with Yael, Yael was suffering from anxiety and mild agoraphobia, especially when it came to being outdoors. Additionally, Yael’s strong desire to please others, even at the cost of her desires, was further impacting her self-esteem and feeling of self-worth, adding to her social and academic challenges at school.
“When we were first paired together, Yael and I set her individual goals for the future. One of our main aims was to strengthen Yael’s self-confidence and her ability to express herself and voice her needs and wishes to her family and peers,” said Maya. “As time passed, Yael’s trust in me grew and she opened up and shared more about herself, allowing me to better equip her with the tools she was lacking in everyday life.”
The past year has only introduced more challenges to Yael’s life. Six months ago, her mother was diagnosed with cancer; she has since started intense treatments and is scheduled for an operation to remove her tumor. Yael, who Maya described as “mature and supportive” would accompany her mother to her treatments — but Maya recognized that doing so was increasing Yael’s anxiety and fear of the situation.
“I took that opportunity to emphasize to Yael the importance of finding time for herself and her needs and recognizing her own inner strength,” Maya shared. “We started to go on excursions during the Covid pandemic to allow Yael to get away and also deal with her fear of the outdoors.”
In light of Yael’s mother’s cancer diagnosis, and its subsequent impact on her health and the time she had to spend with Yael, Maya helped deepen Yael’s connection with her father, reporting that their relationship “blossomed.”
“Now both parents are active participants in our parental guidance groups and are exemplary figures of positive and constructive communication,” stated Maya. “It was not easy to bring them to this place, but as time goes on, the communication between them stabilizes.”
And when the family’s computer stopped working, Youth Futures supplied Yael with a new one so she could continue her school work and Zoom meetings with her newfound motivation. Maya also referred Yael’s mother to a cancer support group and gave her information about available social resources she can utilize.
“I am thankful for the Youth Futures program. It has become an anchor for our family and a source of strength and stability, especially due to lack of support from other sources,” said Yael’s mom.
Youth Futures mentors work with their mentees for three years; this year is Maya and Yael’s last one paired together. Maya is continuing to work with Yael on her goals to empower Yael, strengthening her confidence and independence so she can succeed in the future using the tools and skills she learned in Youth Futures.
*Names have been changed for privacy