[story by Christie Kieschnick, BeREAL Director of Education & Career Development, New Orleans]Thankfully, all of the BeREAL* youth are safe and doing well following the onslaught and aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. Of course, everyone was seriously inconvenienced and several schools did not reopen as soon as hoped. The BeREAL Center fared just fine.
The recent hurricane was yet another example of the resilience of our youth – as they deal with the interruptions in their lives – whether it’s change of placements, schools, or even hurricanes, they continue to bounce back in the face of all kinds of “storms.” They’re incredible!
Prior to Hurricane Isaac’s arrival, the BeREAL youth, staff, and mentors celebrated getting back to school in New Orleans with an afternoon of skating, pizza, and games. Even Transition Coach Michael Patrick skated … and we had to admit that, to our surprise, he did better than several of the youth!
It was great to get everyone together for fun and good conversation. One of our youth’s biological parents came to the party, as they are in the process of reunification, and it was wonderful to welcome her to the BeREAL family. It was another youth’s 14thbirthday, and we were so happy that she chose to spend the afternoon with us so we could celebrate with her. And to top all that off, it was such a nice surprise to have one of our college students join us. Guess you’re never too old to enjoy a good skating party!
All of our youth are so excited about the upcoming kick-off of our new weekly literacy program, “Think Outside the Book.” We’re partnering with the New Orleans Public Library, and they are allowing us to use a “Teen Area” at one of their main libraries that is centrally located for our youth. This new voluntary program encourages creative arts exploration through reading, engaging discussions, and group activities, while increasing the academic and literacy focus of BeREAL.
Each semester we will select one or two books to read as a group. The first book we will be using is Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers. After a read-aloud time, we will split into small groups and focus on creative writing, illustration, and discussion. One of our high school juniors is going to lead the creative writing team, as that is his passion. We can’t wait to get started!
It’s gonna be a great school year!
* BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Children & Family Services, provides transition services for youth ages 13-25 aging out of Louisiana’s foster care system, through training, support, and mentoring programs.