by Martha Lawlor –
The goal of the Georgetown Project’s NEST Empowerment Center is to provide a haven for Georgetown ISD high-school teens who are homeless, living in transition, or are at-risk. It’s open Monday-Thursday, 4-7 PM. Students from all three Georgetown high schools come to the NEST after school. Students from Georgetown and Richarte high schools can walk to the NEST; students from East View High School are bussed by GISD. GISD bus drivers also take all the students to their homes when the NEST closes.
Seeds of Strength awarded a grant of $25,000 in April 2018 to the NEST Empowerment Center, one of the major endeavors of The Georgetown Project. The grant was to 1) fund a half-time Academic and Career Case Manager to coordinate and expand the Summer Youth Employment Program and provide additional counseling, tutoring and skills building activities and 2) fund the creation of an Outdoor Learning Lab and Teaching Garden.
WHAT THE NEST EMPOWERMENT CENTER DELIVERS
Resources that the NEST can provide in a positive environment by caring adults include:
• an evening meal
• a quiet place for homework
• school supplies
• homework help
• job readiness training
• connections to community resources
Today there are three people on staff: Bebe Johnson, NEST Coordinator (full time), Dennis Dalton, Case Manager (part time), who oversees the Summer Youth Employment Program and job readiness, and Kristen Adams, Case Manager (part time), who is a licensed Social Worker responsible for processing new participants, counseling, tutoring, and skill building.
THE SoS SITE VISIT JANUARY 15, 2019
Once the teenagers arrive, things start hopping! They help themselves to snacks and drinks before they break into smaller groups to socialize and relax. Three girls are at the piano, three guys are playing an Outer Space card game, another group are swapping phone apps. Other options include a workout space with treadmills and a punching bag, jigsaw puzzles, a study room, a library of books – there are lots of choices.
Then the students begin to work on their homework, with help available from the Case Managers and two Southwestern University students who intern at the NEST. A separate room with several computers is also available to assist them.
Every night there are 20-25 people at the dinner table. The bus drivers and the college interns join the students at the dinner table. During dinner someone pulls a paper from the Pickle Jar, and everyone at the table must tell about an experience suggested on the paper. For example: What was the best thing that happened to you today? These dinners, provided by volunteers (individuals, churches, companies), are another enriching experience that not all the students are able to enjoy at home.
Some evenings an outside speaker makes a presentation to the teens on a topic relevant to what’s going on in their lives. This school year, presentations have been made by:
• Hope Alliance staff on dating violence
• Christi Center staff about processing grief
• The Georgetown Police officers assigned to the High Schools had open conversations with the students
• Former NEST students that are now attending TSTC and ACC came for discussions with the students
THE YOUTH ACTION COUNCIL
The Youth Action Council (YAC) is similar to a Student Council. Its members play a leadership role at the NEST, providing mentorship to the younger students. YAC and the staff work together to assess current programs/activities and plan new initiatives at the NEST Empowerment Center. The Council is responsible for planning and facilitating special events such as Talent Shows, Art Galas and our Open House events. YAC also represents The Georgetown Project and the NEST Empowerment Center at community events such as MLK Youth Service Day, Youth Summits and various community meetings.
There are some House Rules at the NEST Empowerment Center, developed by the YAC.
• We will treat each other with respect
• We will make school work our priority
• We ill be kind and courteous to each other
• We will respect each other’s personal boundaries
• We will accept each other for who we are
The Georgetown Project and the NEST Empowerment Center are very proud of their record:
• 100% of high school seniors served have graduated
• 99% of highs school students served advanced a grade
• 55 students have completed summer employment internships
• The most successful students are those that participate in the Youth Action Council and the Summer Youth Employment Program
The students are hard at work planning the outdoor garden, which they will begin to build in the Spring. Tentative plans include a gazebo, a butterfly house, and various plant and veggie gardens, all to be showcased at the NEST Open House on May 16th.
Seeds of Strength can be very proud of our role in supporting the NEST Empowerment Center, which is laser-focused on empowering teens with the skills needed to graduate high school and achieve success in higher education, work and life.