Author: Lauren Elyse Tudor
Every young person needs at least one safe adult in their life who encourages and understands where they are. The foundation of our work at Found Village is to build trusting relationships. As we drive our mission to engage, develop, grow and empower teens from hard places, we stand in the gap between community and isolation.
In the first of many feature series, we explore the special connection coaches have with their teens. Marceta, Alléna and JeMiah, are three incredible women on the Found Village team who hold a unique space with each teen, building life plans and working in tandem to meet objectives and coordinate goals.
In their own words, their presence and intentionality are just the beginning.
Lauren: Found Village seems to be changing the way teens are supported in our society by enveloping them in community while providing them with information, opportunity, and empowerment. What does it mean to you to be a Found Village coach?
Marceta: I view being a coach as someone who comes alongside youth and ‘does life’ with them. Riding the waves of the up’s as well as the downs, building relationships, fostering new activities and helping serve the development of their growth. I’ve been a coach for a little over a year and I like it. It’s been great to get to know the girls and be a constant in their life with the ability to share my own experiences and anecdotes for results.
Alléna: These young women being built into by different people, allows us to wear many hats and watch as our relationships with the girls blossoms to provide opportunities to talk about complex, heavy issues and mitigate shame from past traumas and mistakes. I coach 17 girls collectively between 13 – 18 years old with Marceta. As a coach, I enjoy elevating the natural strengths each teen possesses. We create encouraging and trusting environments that lead to unique learning relationships.
We’re not their parents but our openness and availability allows for a different level of accountability to be fostered. We’re able to bring out leadership qualities that lead to personal pride. The girls strive not only to not disappoint us, but ultimately, they don’t want to disappoint themselves.
Lauren: Aligning your backgrounds to balance your professional skills is incredible. And the opportunity to forge young identities through sharing your own lived experience is a special asset, how else do you show up and make the difference in the life of a young person?
JeMiah: I just finished my Masters in Anthropology. To expand on that: I enjoy working at the intersection of academic excellence and social responsibility. I understand the backgrounds our teens are coming from.
My mother was incarcerated and as I was coming up, I was fortunate enough to have an “Angel Mom”. She always showed up for me. No matter what the situation. She instilled the desire to be a source of support for those in these positions. As I was working toward my academic goals, I was inspired to step in and get connected with organizations already doing the work. I want to help teens in tough situations.
With the onset of COVID-19, we as coaches found creative ways to keep engagement high. In the beginning, we did a lot of fun outdoor activities. We hosted virtual game nights. Pivoting to a remote environment wasn’t too difficult either. As with most things, there are good days and bad days. But the point is to get in the mud with the girls and meet them where they are.
We are human and our being authentic in our interactions help create safe spaces for the girls. They know that regardless of how they show up or how little we may get from them that day. We are there for them. We extend support with patience and grace and security. We manage mood swings, nuances of trauma, offer transparency, genuineness, and invite them into our own lives. This is not a transactional relationship. With us, they’re not another case number. They know we will fight for them. We make every effort to be a family.
Found Village partners with multiple community organizations with a shared mission and together, holistically meets the needs of each teen. We believe that every teen has unique talents and skills already inside of them and that their ability to develop into a healthy and self-sufficient adult can happen if given the right support.We provide teens and those working with them with that support.
In addition to the obvious benefits of program enrichment, Found Village coaches and staff use human and authentic engagement to teach key character and skills development. Teens are also learning about healthy habits and eating nutritional meals during interactions. Found Village is a community. One that develops the mind, body, and spirit of teens while encouraging others to join them on this journey. Our goal is that every tee walks away with a sense of belonging, power and autonomy and is on the path to independence.
Will you join us?