Stronger Youth = Stronger Communities Pt. 1

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BRIGHT FUTURES X SOS OUTREACH

“It takes a village to raise a child”. While this proverb has been widely used, it’s significant—because it’s true. Youth are the foundation of our communities, and coming together to elevate our youth, elevates us all. 

When we launch our programs in a new community, one of the first things we do is determine key local partners that will help enable us to be successful. In 2015, we expanded our locations to serve youth around Park City, UT—and we immediately began partnering with Bright Futures, a program of the Park City Education Foundation.

“We work with SOS to solve problems that families in our community might be experiencing,” says Rebeca Gonzalez, Program Outreach at Bright Futures. Rebeca helped start Bright Futures and also serves as an SOS mentor. “We’re working together to help students and families have a seat at the table. To have the opportunity to see themselves as valuable members of their community.”

Bright Futures aims to demystify college for first-generation students. They start working with youth during their sophomore year of high school to provide resources to help navigate the process of applying for schools and seeking out scholarships. Bright Futures continues to offer support to students once they transition to college to ensure they successfully graduate.

“Statistics have shown us that only 11% of first-generation college students nationally graduate,” says Rebeca. “We’re trying to beat the odds, and during the pandemic that number has actually gotten lower as more students are pulled away to help financially support their families during this time.” 

By empowering families to make college a top priority, students are given a path to follow their dreams—to become the next generation of leaders. Many of our youth at SOS also participate in Bright Futures. The values and skills instilled from both of our organizations help create a stronger foundation for each young adult to thrive.

“In Spanish we say ‘ganas’ which means grit, the desire and determination to continue,” says Rebeca, who is a first-generation college graduate herself. “It fits into how SOS builds resilience for youth. Together, we’re creating students who have the resources they need, who have the mindset of getting out of their comfort zones, and in turn, we’re enhancing our community.”

Providing youth with programs that are fun, engaging, and beneficial helps them feel supported as they deal with life’s challenges. Our participants are often helping to bridge the language barrier between their family, who may be learning English as a second language, and the community. In addition, they frequently take on caregiver roles for their younger siblings and help provide financial support for their family by working part-time jobs. Together with Bright Futures, our life-changing programs build healthy habits and provide positive adult mentorship so youth have the ganas to pursue their dreams.

“We’re really trying to make a difference for our most vulnerable families and it’s through our partnerships where we have the greatest impact,” says Rebeca. “What these partnerships can do when we come together with our youth, when we come together for our community—we’re providing hope and a sense of belonging. And it truly does take a village.”