You never know what you might see on a Tuesday or Thursday evening at BeREAL. You could come across a take-no-prisoners game of basketball. There might be a youth and her mentor with their heads together going over class work. Or settled in on the computers, it’s likely you’ll find teenagers researching, reading, or listening to music.
On “college night” you’ll hear a group of students now attending college discussing issues that are specific to them―young adults who “aged out” of Louisiana’s foster care system.
You will have arrived at the home of BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished, Leaders), a renovated gymnasium where youth (13-25) aging out of their foster homes find training, support, and mentoring programs. The gym was just about all that was left standing of the Bethlehem Children’s Treatment Center following Hurricane Katrina. BeREAL is a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Social Services.
Community support plays an important part in helping BeREAL participants find their paths to hopeful, productive futures. Two recent examples:
1. The Kiwanis Club of Pontchartrain, dedicated past supporters of Bethlehem Children’s Center, have rekindled their relationship and support for BeREAL, and recently donated furniture to the BeREAL Center.
2. Ronald Baptiste, CFO of Veolia Transportation, sponsored a Saturday lunch for youth of BeREAL and Boys Town at the Center. Youth and staff enjoyed a meal of fried chicken, shrimp fried rice, drinks, and dessert. Efforts are being made in the community to have local businesses sponsor Saturday lunch for BeREAL.
Launched just over a year ago, BeREAL has some recent success stories to report:
· 1 youth passed her Graduate Exit Exam and is heading for high school graduation in May.
· 2 youth are in process of adoption
· 6 youth are now in college or post-secondary education
· College group nights and Saturday Center hours are very popular and well-attended