Helping At-Risk Youth in Israel
Each year, more than 5,000 at-risk children in Israel are helped by Youth Futures, a mentoring program launched by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and its beneficiary agency, the Jewish Agency for Israel. Youth Futures directly impacts 14,000 children and their families across 36 cities in Israel's geographic and socio-economic periphery. Trained mentors work as trusted guides to help students improve school performance, strengthen social integration, and inspire engagement with the community. The mentors also connect youth, families, and communities with the services and local resources to help them overcome barriers to success.
Eight-year-old Michelle was a quiet eight-year-old living in Beit Shean, Cleveland’s sister community in Israel. She developed selective muteness and her school teacher wanted to move her to a special education class. That’s when she was introduced to Youth Futures. “When I first met with Michelle, she barely spoke,” said her Youth Futures mentor. “After a number of meetings, I began to build her trust and she began to speak louder. Every time she did, I encouraged her.”
Together with Michelle’s parents, her mentor, and the Youth Futures team, a program was created to help Michelle succeed in and out of the classroom. Michelle used writing as a way for her to express her feelings about those around her. “We set a goal of her participation in a school assembly,” added her mentor. “We practiced by shouting her part of the assembly across the room. Through practice and gaining confidence, Michelle was able to participate in the assembly, with her parents and teachers proudly looking on.”
These days, Michelle does not stop talking when her mentor and she get together. “Michelle is blossoming and taking part in activities around town and transforming into an amazing teenager. You can always see a big smile on her face!”
(Names in this story have been changed for privacy purposes)
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