by Babs Cape –
When the Seeds of Strength representatives visited The NEST Empowerment Center on November 16, we witnessed their mission in action.
We were delighted to find that our visit coincided with their Poetry Slam night! Most of the 20+ students read or recited poetry, either their own creations or “found” pieces. The amazing creativity, sensitivity, and personal sharing were enthusiastically rewarded with finger snaps from their audience. The poetry performance served as a vehicle for the young people to express their dreams and fears, while generating self-confidence and a growing belief in themselves. With poem titles like “Monsters,” “Maturity,” “Kiss,” and “Letter Unsent,” we believe we were seeing snippets of the students’ lives. They were sharing their innermost feelings and attesting to the success of the empowerment goals of The NEST.
The NEST is a haven, a safe place for GISD high school students who are homeless, at-risk, or living in transition. When the last bell of the school day rings, students board GISD buses headed to The NEST. The Empowerment Center facility has space for fun programs like the Poetry Slam, for sharing meals, for academic support, and for counseling. Students also go out for walks with volunteers. And on Fridays, the students’ backpacks are filled with food to ensure they have enough to eat over the weekends. Health in body and mind makes for a happy and successful teen.
Since its inception in 2011, The NEST has nurtured hundreds of Georgetown teens. About 115 students went through the program in the 2016-17 school year. Most of the participants engage at The NEST for at least two years.
The NEST proudly points out that all the high-school seniors who have been part of The NEST have graduated. They each get to paint a “brick” on the wall in celebration of that achievement.
The NEST operates under the auspices of The Georgetown Project, and as such it collaborates with other community-based groups helping our youth to ensure that the participants get all the help and support they need. For example, students from Southwestern University assisted with the Poetry Slam.
Prior to the 2017 grant from SoS, The NEST Coordinator Bebe Johnson along with Jane Lowe comprised the staff delivering all these services. But, with the SoS $25,000 grant, they hired a new part-time case worker, Jamie Furniss. Qualified and enthusiastic, she has been working since October, getting acquainted with and connected to her charges, seeking to bring out the best in each one. This talented team assesses the needs of each young person and directs each one to the specific services needed. Students will set and attain goals, build skills for the future, and some will qualify for paid summer intern programs.
The NEST: a shelter to protect and develop the young. It really is the perfect name, and this is a perfect place for Seeds of Strength to be sowing!