By KJ de Jesus.
“I think it’s important for us as a society to remember that the youth within juvenile justice systems are, most of the time, youths who simply haven’t had the right mentors and supporters around them—because of circumstances beyond their control.” –Q’orianka Kilcher
We all climb for different reasons—some folks enjoy the problem solving, others climb to stay fit, and most are in it because it’s fun. For residents at Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services (OYHFS), climbing is a youthful reminder.
Our first session with OYHFS, six boys walked into Verdigo Boulders with their chests puffed up and a tough exterior. They sat quietly with straight faces that gave no insight into how they were feeling. But as soon as they got onto the wall, everything changed. The hardness of their eyes turned soft and the gym was filled with laughter and excitement. They ran from one climb to the other trying to be the first to get to 12 V points. They were happy.
They were kids again.
OYHFS is a nationally accredited 501(c)3 non-profit that provides services and programs for high risk youth and their families in and around Los Angeles. For many of the kids, life is far from a fairytale. Some come from low income, single parent homes. Some experience abuse, neglect, and are characterized as “juvenile delinquents.” But for all of them, life’s circumstances dictated who they needed to be in order to survive.
Optimist and their gamut of supportive services gives these kids an opportunity and, more specifically, a choice to create a new future. In our experience working with these kids and staff, OYHFS serves as a symbol of hope, love, and security for the communities they serve. To learn more about Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services, please watch this clip.
Verdigo Boulders and OYHFS partner together each quarter to provide bouldering classes to youth who live on campus or in their group homes. While we’re still developing the program, our goal is to co-host these climbing sessions with OYHFS youth. There’s a strong emphasis on providing recreational activities as they can improve “self-esteem and self-efficacy, manage emotions, improve peer relationships, and develop leadership and social skills,” said Jennifer D’Alvarez the Chief Advancement & Communications Officer. We’re honored to to share in this partnership with OYHFS and are looking forward to seeing the program develop and grow along with the kids!
Drop us a line for more information about our partnership with OYHFS or if you’d like to get involved.