‘What motivates you to keep going?’ — The importance of one
I've been speaking about Project Legacy at many different engagements lately, and the question I always get is “Why do you do this?” or “What motivates you to keep going?” For me, the answer is simple. I can’t stop when I know there are children who are marginalized and disenfranchised.
In our community.
In our schools.
In our homes.
Last month, I took a young girl home after an event and she asked me if we could stop to eat because there was no food in her house. She said her mom had to ask the neighbors for money to buy milk for the baby.
And if there is no money for milk, I can guarantee you there is no gas to take her to school events, sports practices, or to buy clothing that fits, let alone anything emergent she may need as a child.
Ten years ago, I remember hearing this same story from another refugee girl. And today, that girl is a junior in college. She received complete support from Project Legacy throughout middle school, high school and college, providing her with the confidence and opportunity to make her dreams of a future a reality.
Connection to community, school and family makes all the difference, but it requires effort to connect kids and keep them connected. Belonging is a fundamental need of humans, and if young people don’t belong to a positive group, they will find somewhere else to belong.
We hear it all the time: “I got in with the wrong group.” Some kids get into gangs, some into friend groups that use drugs and alcohol, and for our young girls, they turn to older men.
Within the last few months, a community foundation turned down our grant application that would have provided funding for our girls’ group. Another just recently denied a small grant that would have provided funding for a girls camping trip, an important and formative experience for young girls.
Why? Not because of the quality of our programs or the work we do. They said they want to support programs that reach more youth.
When I asked what could have improved the grant applications, they said there was nothing specific they could point to — they admire our work, the applications were well-written, and our outcomes are impressive. They simply wanted to support programs that reach 300 youth per year, rather than 60, or a program that has branches in 4 counties, not just one, or a program that serves single parents and their children, not just boys and girls in high school and college.
Still, we believe in our model. We believe in focusing on the one.
Here at Project Legacy, we provide intensive, long-term support to youth who face multiple risk factors and barriers in order to interrupt generational poverty, teen parenting and incarceration. We are developed intentionally for youth of color by adults of color. We are culturally-specific and trauma-informed. We focus on healing.
And what we do works.
Project Legacy has a proven model that provides opportunities, removes barriers and helps youth realize their dreams, but it’s impossible without financial support.
Would you consider partnering with us to support our young people? To create opportunities for young girls to experience healthy, trusting friendships? To allow for youth to be mentored and supported in their finances, education and mental health?
Because it all matters, to us, to the group —and to that one.