LUK, Inc. Blog
Empowering Youth and Embracing Self-Care Through Art
by Amber Haney
Throughout the month of May, LUK Prevention is encouraging youth in Central Massachusetts to consider the ways in which they are making time for their mental health and wellness while staying at home. Youth will be invited to create and submit artwork that centers around the theme “How I stay mentally well during physical distancing”.
With a strong focus on mental wellness, the hope is that this art contest will strengthen protective factors to aid in the prevention of youth substance use while youth are at home, practicing safe social distancing.
Everyone reacts to challenging situations differently, and may embrace varying coping skills and self-care strategies. The recent COVID-19 crisis has bestowed extraordinary challenge and hardship upon our world, and youth have been burdened with unique struggles, themselves. The LUK Prevention art contest encourages youth to consider the healthy and adaptive self-care strategies that work for them. The contest empowers youth to embrace their creativity and expressiveness, promoting an organic self-care practice, in itself.
LUK Prevention will proudly present select artworks on our social media pages following the close of the contest. It is our goal to empower youth in an art-making process that will yield artworks which will become catalysts for discussion around self-care and mental wellness. LUK Prevention will be publically sharing these artworks with the intention to inspire viewers to consider their own self-care practices, too.
Additionally, LUK Prevention will select three art contest winners based on predetermined age categories (10-13, 14-17, and 18-21 years of age). Winners will be awarded a bundle of high-quality arts materials to promote art as a continued means of self-care and self-expression. '
Providing Stability to the Youngest Survivors
by Michele Morrissey
A baby girl, just four days old and exposed to heroin, is shuddering through withdrawal in intensive care, her fate now being determined in a courthouse that hosts a parade of human misery.
A mother nods off as the judge explains the legal process, and tests arrive back showing she continues to struggle with recovery. The judge rules, grandparents sob, and by the time the hearing is over, yet another child is left in the arms of loving foster parents because of the disease of addiction on parenting.
There is little surprise in any of this, for these themes are persistent in referrals for Comprehensive Foster Care in Massachusetts. A Monday brings a referral for an opioid-dependent newborn which spills into a Tuesday where four siblings are found in an apartment left alone without adequate food or resources. Wednesday brings a need for a foster home for two young siblings found in a car beside a mother passed out which fades into Thursday with another addicted infant brought into this world. Across Massachusetts soaring use of opioids has forced thousands of children from their homes, creating a generation of children and youth longing for their parents in recovery or worse orphaned because of fatal overdoses.
Stories of barren fridges, unwelcome visitors and parents who could not be woken are realities for many communities over the past several years. Many times we do not hear about the numerous stories where grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and coaches come forward and provide safety in familiar homes in their communities. However, when these best options are not available our foster parents come forward and provide security.
It only takes one caring individual to positively effect change in the life of one of these children. Foster parents make a significant impact on the trajectory of a child’s life.
One of the biggest problems in foster care right now is that there are not enough homes for the children who require this help. Becoming a foster parent is an important process that LUK can help a person navigate. The potential foster family is provided with a background check and participates in a thorough home study. Once completed and approved, a family can begin to accept children into their home. If you have the space, compassion, a clear criminal record, and the ability to care for children, rather than ask “Why should I become a foster parent?” Instead ask “Why shouldn’t I become a foster parent?”.
To begin the process of becoming a foster parent, please call LUK at 800-879-0000 and we will assign a professional foster care specialist to support and guide you through the process.
April is Volunteer Appreciation Month
Volunteers are Awesome!
April is Volunteer Appreciation Month! National Volunteer Week began in 1974 when President Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Since then, every U.S. President has signed a proclamation promoting National Volunteer Week, which has grown each year with thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week. You have the opportunity during National Volunteer Week, which takes place this year, April 19th – 25th, to reach out and express your gratitude to those awesome people who lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community.
According to the Corporation for National & Community service, overall, in Massachusetts in 2015:
- 24.8% of residents volunteer
- 1,336,559 volunteers
- 28.2 volunteer hours per capita
- 150.02 million hours of service
- $3.6 billion of service contributed
- 50.8% of residents donate $25 or more to charity
LUK Inc. volunteers include those who serve on the LUK Board, LUK Mentoring Advisory Board, who are interns and LUK Mentors, volunteer for special events like the Rodman Ride for Kids, the LUK Mentoring Kids at Heart Gala, and the Common Ground Basketball Tournament . Volunteers are one of our countries most important assets. Without volunteers, there are many programs that would not exist and many events that support those programs, would not take place. The LUK Mentoring Program is one of those programs, volunteer driven.
Here are some tips on becoming a volunteer*:
- Research the causes or issues that are important to you. Look for a group that deals with issues about which you feel strongly.
- Consider what you have to offer. If you enjoy outdoor work, or have a knack for teaching, you may want to look for a volunteer opportunity in which your special skills can be utilized. Similarly, you may want to think about your specific personality and how your organization skills or communication style might fit with different organizations or activities.
- Think outside the box! Many community groups that are looking for volunteers, like neighborhood watch programs, prisons, disaster relief organizations, youth organizations, intergenerational programs, and park services may not have occurred to you but could just be the perfect fit.
- There’s no need to wait to be asked. There are many ways to find organizations that are looking for volunteers. Ask your friends or colleagues about their own volunteering activities. The Internet has great online volunteer referral services that can help you find the right volunteer opportunity for you.
- When you find an organization that is in line with your interests, request an interview and plan for it in much the same way that you would plan for a job interview. Be ready to describe your interests, qualifications, and background, and also be prepared to ask your interviewers about their organization and the benefits they offer to their volunteers. An interview will allow you and the organization to find the right match for your skills and interests.
- Would you like to learn something new? Consider whether the organization offers training or professional development opportunities for their volunteers. Volunteering can provide you with the chance to learn about something you’re interested in and develop skills in a new area.
- Find the volunteer activity that fits your schedule. Organizations need different levels of commitment for different types of volunteer activities.
- Volunteer with friends or as a family. Think about looking for a volunteer opportunity that would be suitable for parents and children to do together, or for husband and wife or a group of friends to take on as a team. Volunteering with others can be a great way to get to know people better and can help keep you excited about volunteering.
- Virtual Volunteering- yes, there is such a thing. If you have computer access and the necessary skills, some organizations now offer the opportunity to do volunteer work over the computer. This can be a great way to get started in volunteering, and can also provide a way to volunteer at home on a flexible schedule.
- Don’t give up! If you find that your volunteering experience is not all that you expected, talk to your volunteer supervisor or coordinator about it. Think of what could make it better and check with them to see if your ideas are possibilities.
Of course we would like you to volunteer for LUK! If you would like to learn more about the LUK Mentoring Program, serve on the Mentoring Advisory Board or help with our fundraising efforts go to www.LUK.org/Mentoring or call 800-579-0000. Click here to see the volunteer opportunities available.
Please take a moment to recognize the volunteers who make our community a better place and go to www.facebook.com/LUKMentoring where we are highlighting our generous mentors and volunteers. We would like to thank all the LUK Inc. volunteers and encourage those who are thinking about volunteering to find the right opportunity!
*adapted from materials compiled by the nonprofit coalition Independent Sector
Involving Youth in Prevention Work
Why involving youth in prevention work can be a game changer.
Youth leadership in prevention programming is a game changer, and here’s why: Youth are creative, candid, and influential. Youth who are passionate about preventing underage drinking in their schools and communities can have a great impact on the environment in which they and their peers live. Youth are also more likely to listen to their peers, especially when it is something their peers are invested in. By creating a place for youth leadership in our prevention programs we enhance our credibility.
LUK does most of their prevention work with youth in two ways – through LUK’s Peers 4 Prevention program, which hires high school students to be Peer Leaders and educate other students about Operating Under the Influence (OUI) prevention, and through the Substance Use Prevention Collaboratives (SAPC) in the East and West parts of North Worcester County.
Peers 4 Prevention
Since September, LUK Peer Leaders have presented to over 300 students in Fitchburg regarding Operating Under the Influence (OUI) prevention, and focused on the dangers of using substances and the dangers and consequences of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In 2016, the Peer Leaders created a video PSA called Think Before You Drink that can be viewed on our YouTube channel here.
LUK Peers also attend community events to share this information with students and their parents.
SAPC Social Marketing Campaign
LUK’s SAPC programs were busy throughout the winter and early spring planning a social marketing campaign, which was launched in April. This year, SAPC East and West have teamed up to tackle underage drinking! Like in years past, the campaign will focus on “Life is Full of Shots Worth Taking,” which aims to remind youth that there are better things to pursue than drinking alcohol.
This year, youth leaders from Montachusett Opportunity Council (MOC) have been very influential as part of the planning committee. MOC peer leaders not only attended every meeting, but provided fresh ideas and new perspectives on social marketing and social platforms. This has empowered SAPC staff to look at “the way things have always been done” and think about new and exciting ways to reach young people.
To view the PSAs that the youth helped to produce, visit www.YouTube.com/LUKVideo4u and watch the videos titled Life is Full of Shots Worth Taking 1 & 2.
January is National Mentoring Month
by Hilary Amedy, Mentoring Program Coordinator
January is National Mentoring Month and is the largest-scale mentoring campaign nationwide. National Mentoring Month offers us a chance to celebrate the mentoring relationships essential to creating sustainable futures for our youth.
Research shows that mentors play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to make responsible choices, attend and engage in school, and reduce or avoid risky behavior like drug use. In turn, these young people are:
- 55% more likely to be enrolled in college
- 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities
- 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities
- More than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team
Yet, the same research shows that one in three young people in our country will grow up without a mentor. Today, in our community there are 190 kids who could benefit from having a mentor.
National Mentoring Month is the time of year where engagement from community members interested in becoming a mentor is highest. This year, with the support of the mentoring community, we are encouraging the public to go beyond just digital engagement – and become involved in real life. Mentoring relationships are at their best when connections are made between a caring adult and a young person who knows that someone is there to help guide them through those real life decisions.
National Mentoring Month is led by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with support from the Highland Street Foundation. Each year since its launch in 2002, National Mentoring Month has enjoyed the strong support of the President and the United States Congress.
Mentors spend at least one hour a week with their mentee and do a variety of activities together from educational to recreational. We have a need for community mentors and site based mentors. Community based mentors pick up their mentee at the mentee’s home and choose what they are going to do out in the community. Site based mentors meet at the Sizer Charter School twice a week as a “lunch buddy” and Plumley Village mentors meet on Thursdays from 3:00 – 4:00 in Worcester.
LUK Mentors are the backbone of this program and are so generous with their time and energy. We want to thank all the LUK Mentors who have shared their life experiences, knowledge and wisdom with our mentees. You are the best!!