Eight IVLP participants from Azerbaijan recently came to San Antonio to learn more about the role of youth centers and increasing their capacity and reach. All of the visitors were moved by the work of the myriad resources San Antonio had to offer and their ability to affect the lives of young people.
Their first stop was with SA Youth, a local non-profit who helps youth on a variety of fronts. Whether it is promoting healthy diets and lifestyles, enabling GED obtainment, after-school programming, or work skills training, SA Youth provides San Antonio with vital services at every level of childhood and adolescence. The visitors also observed youth centers dealing with more acute crises like The Children’s Shelter. There, the visitors learned all about dealing with youth in a state of emergency like neglect, abandonment, or abuse, as well as the importance of intervention in their lives. Before the day concluded, they also met with Lauren Browning of Growing Empowered Together where they discussed their work to engage millennial and Generation Z voters especially through their signature Get Reel film series. All of these appointments provided a new lens with which the visitors could look at the role of youth centers.
Over the weekend, the group was treated to home hospitality with members of the SACIV community as well as a one-of-a-kind tour of the San Antonio Missions. Visitors really enjoyed seeing each of the missions and hearing about their significance as a World Heritage Site.
When the workweek resumed, visitors learned about Kinetic Kids, a local group working to ensure children with disabilities have access to tailored recreational and educational programs. This enrichment helps overcome deficits that would otherwise separate them from their peers. The Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio afforded the perspective of a national non-profit working to provide youth programming across the United States including for the youth of Bexar County. Suited specifically for young women, Girls Inc. was an original concept to the IVLP participants as they heard about their efforts to improve body image, foster healthy relationships, and advance career and college readiness for our community’s girls. Visitors were able to talk to some of the young participants themselves and learn more first-hand from their triumphs.
When their last day of programming in San Antonio arrived, Haven for Hope opened their doors to another group of international visitors. At Haven for Hope, the visitors focused primarily on learning about the THRIVE Youth Center and their critical work with LGBTQ adolescents who may need educational, economic, or emotional support. After a tour and a roundtable discussion about programs at THRIVE, each visitor pitched in to help Haven for Hope in a community service activity. Next, they stopped at the Martinez Street Women’s Center to learn about their program to help at-risk women and girls with particular attention paid to their Girl Zone Program. This program helps to encourage the healthy development of young girls to ensure a better future.
Each appointment provided a new perspective for the IVLP participants from Azerbaijan to learn from. Whether learning about civic activism, women’s issues, youth homelessness, recreational programming, or disability and minority advocacy, every meeting added something new. Afterward, it seemed clear that the members of the delegation were better equipped to serve the youth of Azerbaijan with the knowledge gained in San Antonio.