Spotlight on Power 4 Youth

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EverythingLongBeach.com recently spoke with Val Parker, Executive Director of Power 4 Youth, via email. They talked about the inspirations and challenges of running a nonprofit organization in Long Beach.

How long has Power 4 Youth been around? Did it start in Long Beach?

Power 4 Youth mentoring program began in response to the Los Angeles riots of the ’90s. A group of Long Beach Ministers got together to try to understand what might have caused such a breakdown of community. They identified a need to help teens overcome adversity. In 1999 they started a grassroots effort to reach kids “on the edge” – those who were not in trouble, but whose success depended on having a positive influence to balance the negative challenges they faced in their lives. They began with 6 at-risk student/adult mentor pairs. The adult mentors believed in the youth, helping them identify and overcome academic and personal obstacles, while instilling hope, and helping the youth create a tangible plan for a vocational or career path designed to help them transcend socio-economic barriers. Over the next 10 years the program steadily grew, prompting a decision to incorporate POWER 4 Youth as its own 501(c)3 nonprofit agency. With the “blessing” and continued support from the churches, as well as from individual and corporate donors, POWER 4 Youth received its nonprofit designation in October 2008. Although still supported by numerous churches, there is no religious affiliation or component to the program.

Describe Power 4 Youth. Tell us a little about your nonprofit, your mission, the people you serve or your goals.

The mission of Power 4 Youth is making the difference in the lives of at-risk students through caring, consistent mentoring relationships.  We believe that all youth deserve individual guidance from a caring, knowledgeable adult to help them achieve their potential.  Power 4 Youth partners adult volunteer mentors with teens from at-risk neighborhoods throughout Long Beach to help build academic skills and life skills.

How is Power 4 Youth different from similar nonprofits?

Power 4 Youth is the largest site-based mentoring program for teens in the Long Beach area.  It is a unique hybrid of combining traditional mentoring with the goal of improving school performance.

How is Power 4 Youth involved with the community?

Power 4 Youth works with other mentor groups from throughout Long Beach through the LB Mentor Connection–providing joint referrals, mentor training, recruitment and recognition events.

As a site-based program, Power 4 Youth works out of neighborhoods, collaborating with local churches, social service agencies and neighborhood groups to reach local youth.

But at the same time, the program works closely with the schools, receiving referrals from counselors, and following the students’ progress through the years.

What are some of the biggest successes Power 4 Youth has had?

Since its inception, less than 3% of the students have dropped out of school–much less than the general rate for similar demographics.

After completing one semester, the majority students improve their grades, and maintain the improvement over time.

What is the most rewarding part of running Power 4 Youth?

Seeing a student accomplish something she or he never dreamed possible.  Many of the youth join the program not seeing themselves as successful…and the rewards are so great when they end up graduating and going on to college!

Likewise, it is inspiring to see the commitment and dedication of the volunteer mentors.  They are the ones to celebrate–they truly make the difference!

What are the challenges you face — as a nonprofit, as an advocacy group, or in your industry?

Working with a student population that faces daily life struggles is a challenge for the mentors.  We are not social workers, but know that a guiding hand can make a big difference in the direction a young person takes.  Mentoring is not a complicated program, but it takes time, dedication and financial resources to assure the quality program participants deserve.

What are the future plans for Power 4 Youth?

Power 4 Youth continues to reach out to struggling youth throughout the community, to match them with caring adult mentors who make a real difference in the lives of the youth, and we will continue to do so well into the future.

Do you have any special events or fundraisers you’d like to tell us about?

Power 4 Youth holds two large events a year, and the public is welcome to participate in either or both of them:

On Sunday, June 7, 2015 we will be holding our annual Recognition Dinner, where we recognize the accomplishments of the students, and celebrate the efforts of the mentors.

On September 28, 2015 we will be holding a Mini-Golf Tournament to raise funds for the program.  This fun–truly is putt-putt golf–is always a fun way to join in the program and raise funds.

How can people get involved with Power 4 Youth? What do you need — volunteers, donations, etc?

We can use volunteers, in-kind donations, and, of course, financial contributions at all times.

Mentoring does not take any more time each month than what most people take watching their favorite tv show.  But it makes a much bigger impact upon the world!

Contributions, large or small, allow us to continue our work, and are always needed.

What is the most inspiring advice that you received and who did it come from?

When I came to work for Power 4 Youth, I was wondering if I was up to the task, and I got great advice from a friend who worked with teen boys.  She said, “Just talk to them!  No one ever just talks to teens, especially boys; adults talk at them, but don’t listen.  Just start a conversation.”  Great advice.

Power 4 Youth Details:
Address:  607 E. 3rd Street, Long Beach CA 90802
Phone Number:  562-435-2352
Website:  http://www.power4youth.org

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